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Arts and Culture

A Cast Iron Home

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My husband has been home for the past few weeks, his business being deemed as non-essential for the time being.  We’ve started ticking things off that long term to do list all households seem to have, the one that adds on and changes as the months turn into years but rarely dwindles until a pandemic rears and you become bored and sit and sift and cull and realize that setting up those motion sensor lights really aren’t the priority or want you assumed and mark it off for good.  One of the tick boxes, however, that made the cut was attention paid to our cast iron pans.

Growing up, our home was a cast iron home.  I, of course, knew there were other types of pans out there, but they were the sum total for us.  My parents grew up with cast iron and it seemed a long tradition was upheld.  Because they just were our everyday, I grew up knowing the ins and outs of caring for them and cooking in them and never really gave it a second thought.  I definitely didn’t know there was a faction of people scared of using them for a variety of reasons, which, knowing my personality, was probably a good thing.

My husband and I bought our first cast iron pan several years into our marriage. It quickly multiplied and edged out any other contenders collected from wedding gifts or picked up cheaply while we were newlyweds. This pan is my favorite, now.  It’s worn and grooved in all the right ways.  Seasoned and smooth.  Wearing its age nicely.

When my grandmother passed away, my mother found a cast iron pan that was rusted and discarded and placed outside.  It was in rough shape.  When no one else wanted it, my mom took it home and carefully restored it to its purposeful glory.  Having seen the before, I asked how she brought it back to life.  She scraped off any food, rust and mud from the entire pan.  She was uncertain how to attack the next part, but decided to put it in the self-cleaning oven to see what happened.  She said the worst that could happen is it would ruin it and she would learn a lesson and the best would be that she would be able to take one last layer of ruin off and have a useable pan.  The best happened.  Once it was out, she had a storied and useable pan to work with.  She then cleaned it with dish soap and hot water a couple of times, seasoned it and now uses it regularly.  It was with that story in mind that I watched my husband stack our cast iron to one side of our sink, arm himself with some sandpaper and get to work. 

Aside from our first pan, we have several newer pieces of cast iron cookware.  Bread pans, a dutch oven, a pizza “stone”, several frying pans in a variety of sizes all housed in a cupboard that groans beneath the weight of it all.  Our bread pans are well used, my husband regularly making bread as a way to decompress from life’s stresses, but they always seemed a little more rough than he likes, bread sometimes sticking instead of falling onto the cooling racks.  After a little research, he felt confident he could remedy this with his new found nothing but time on his hands.  He worked all morning, scrubbing the spots that stuck until smooth and evening out the dips in each pan.  He sanded and cleaned and sanded again.  By the time he was done, our pans bore a dull grey sheen instead of the black they once were and they were smooth and even.  A drag across from a spatula satisfied any doubts.  After cleaning thoroughly, he reseasoned our pans and placed them in the oven to bake.  They are beautiful.  He has another round to go before they are all done, this taking far more time than either of us anticipated, but is confident that all of our pans will be up to his standards by the time life returns to a new normal and his practice is up and running once again.  I think, perhaps, he’ll even be grateful in the near future as his baking for stress relief upticks in the face of the virus.

If you haven’t dared dip your feet into the world of cast iron, here are a few of the benefits to making the switch.  They are naturally non-stick.  No more wonder or worry if your current pans are harming you long term.  They hold their heat amazingly well and once the nuance is out of the way, I find cooking is less fussy than with other cookware.  They are a great source if you find yourself needing a little iron supplement to your diet.  They are perfect for a variety of utensils.  Use your metal scrapers without worry of damage!  They are durable and last beyond a lifetime and, as with most things, they only get better with use and age.