Cast Iron

September has brought many changes into my life. I’ve moved in with my brother who lives in Bellingham’s wonderful Broadway Park neighborhood, in my search for work. It’s a temporary situation that I secretly hope will last longer than expected because I’m falling in love with the area! Visiting with my nephews, all three under the age of ten, is also invigorating! Children bring out a young energy in us that as adults we too often neglect. Their sweet smiles and giggles warm up my bones!

Living with family members also tends to bring up some nostalgic feelings. During my first morning at my brother’s house, walking into his kitchen, my eyes immediately noticed the two beautiful cast iron skillets sitting inside of one another on his stove. They were black, bumpy and well seasoned. Many of my family members keep well seasoned cast iron skillets in their kitchens. Seeing the skillets reminded me of a evening from my childhood. Sitting on a kitchen stool watching “the adults” clean up after Thanksgiving dinner, talking and joking with each other in good holiday merriment. However, when it came time to season the cast iron the conversation got heated:

“It’s OK to use a little hot water and soap to clean it now and then. Sometimes I give mine a salt n’ herb rub with some cooking oil.”

“NO! Water should never touch the skillet. Rubbed with olive oil on a paper towel while it’s still hot, inside and out. That is all it needs!”

“I use only bacon grease to season my skillets. It’s the only way. Sometimes I’ll heat up water in the pan while it’s still on the stove to get off any stubborn stuck-ons before I rub ‘em.”

Because it was my Aunt Joann’s kitchen the skillets were seasoned per her method: an olive oil rub with a paper towel.

Cast iron skillets have several attributes that have caused them to be a favorite in many home and professional kitchens. When properly seasoned and maintained they have a natural non-stick coating, enhance the flavor of the food and last over a hundred years. It’s not too uncommon to find them in antique stores, although smart buyers snatch them up quickly. Talking with the owner of the store and asking to be on a call back list if a skillet comes in is one way to insure you get one.

For the past three weeks I’ve used his skillets to make many different dishes: scrambled eggs, beef stir fry, and caramelizing garlic and onions for spaghetti. “Man I love this skillet!” I thought to myself. However, I never purchased my own skillet. While wondering WHY I never purchased one, it hit me- people are seasoned skillets. You can’t deny the fact that life does season us up.

Life experiences good and bad have seasoned my mind and spirit so that when the trials of life come by I’m able to sauté them up processing them properly, the bad “stuck-ons” no longer sticking to my consciousness, following me around like a constant reminder of failure or shortcomings, the good left over flavor sinking into the pores of my very being. Just how my relative’s each have a custom way of seasoning their cookware, so do we season our hearts and minds. No matter what process we use preventing RUST is the main purpose of our efforts. Rust, given sufficient time, oxygen and water will convert any iron mass entirely to rust and disintegrate it. The toughest of metals iron and steel can get corroded. Rust in our heart can make us cold and callus.

During this time of transition I will try to keep myself “well seasoned”. Perhaps that means taking a good walk, having some quiet time with a book, or attending a play. Wiping off the day’s events with a good olive oil rub, preparing my mind for what’s to come.

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