Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Ode to Cast Iron

It's nice to see that someone else has the same loving relationship to his cast iron pan that I have to mine. 

This dude waxes pretty poetic to his pan writing shit like this:
The idea for the cast-iron pan has been around for hundreds of years, a relic of an age before cookbooks, let alone blogs, recipe apps, and all the rest. It’s an enduring, sacred object that transcends almost everything we think and believe about cooking. It’s a wonder to me that even I, a person who traffics in meditations on food and history, took it for granted so long. But then, that’s easy to do when something has no label, no parts, no color, and virtually no cost. I would suggest that every household in America needs to own a cast-iron pan, even if you aren’t in the habit of making fried chicken, one of the many dishes for which it is absolutely indispensable.
And this:
This pan, this mute dense tool, roots us to our parents, and our grandparents, and the hundreds of generations that came before them. It is Confucianism cast in black iron. Every one that was ever made, whether by Lodge or the million nameless smithies and shops across America, is basically the same: a heavy, immovable piece of metal that takes a long time to heat up, that picks up a patina with long use, and which grows to fit the hands that hold it. The modern way of cooking is to buy a pan, use it for a while, and then throw it out when a flashier or better version comes along. I have thrown out dozens of non-stick pans, ranging from toxic tin bought in Indiana superstores, to luxury versions purveyed by Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. I’ve had copper pans that cost a fortune, and which I never used before losing in a divorce or a move, or ruined by leaving on the stove too long. But I still have this same black pan, which has accompanied me, like the last survivor of a shipwreck, through every turn of a life radically wrenched on multiple occasions.
I'll note here that he forgets one important point about cast iron--once it's been properly "seasoned" if maintained it puts any modern "non-stick" surface to shame.   Plus, you can use metal utensils in cast iron, and not worry about accidentally killing any pet birds in the room.

If you already cook with cast iron, you probably got a pan or two from your mother or grandmother.   I have several from my grandmother, and I'm hoping to pass them on to my daughter some day.   As cast iron dude points out, cast iron has a way of linking generations, of bringing us together in the kitchen.  I think of my grandmother every time one of her pans comes out of from under the counter.


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