Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Cast Iron Skillet and some Thoughts about Family


I come from a long line of bad cooks.  My mama preferred fishing or shrimping or knitting or painting or playing that god-awful little organ of hers to cooking.  Me, I’d rather be reading or writing or watching House Hunters International than doing anything in the kitchen.  But Mama was a good mama, a post WWII mama, who believed the key to a happy family was dinner on the table, eating all together, and that’s why she gave me the cast iron skillet for a wedding present.

I liked that skillet for several reasons.  One, it was from my mother whom I loved dearly and respected more than just about anyone.  Two, it felt historical, knowing that people had used iron skillets for eons.  Three, it didn’t have to be cleaned all that well.  In fact, it wasn’t supposed to be cleaned at all.  For someone who enjoys cleaning even less than cooking, there it was gaving me personal permission not to clean it.

That’s because iron skillets need to be seasoned.  True to form, Mama gave me more detailed instruction on seasoning the skillet than she did on cooking with it.  Seasoning involved lathering it with lard or, in Mama’s modern case, Crisco from the can, and then putting it in the oven for a while.  When it came out, you were supposed to cool it down, wipe it out, put it in the cabinet, and never wash it again.  Just wipe it out.

I used that skillet most days for the twenty years of my married life.   However, when I divorced, and in spite of my still needing to feed my kids, I left that skillet along with the house Gary (aka The Big Kat) and I had built in our younger and more optimistic days.

Twenty-one years later, my oldest child, Melissa, moved back to Georgia with her husband, Trevor. In less than two months' time, Kat had had enough of three generations living together and decided to purchase a new home, one close by but far enough away.

Trevor is a cook, a good cook, one who likes the old ways.  And while all my kids inherited my lack of culinary skills, and my grandkids, Miles and Cami, inherited my left handedness, my last grandchild, Georgia, inherited her father’s interest in cooking.  So these days, my son-in-law and my granddaughter stand in the same kitchen where I stood so many years back, sautéing in the cast-iron skillet my mother gave me over forty years ago.

That’s family for you, inheriting some things you hope for and expect, and others you couldn't even begin to imagine.

9 comments:

Jean said...

I use my cast iron skillet and my cast iron Dutch oven regularly. I think both were wedding gifts. I swear food tastes better when prepared in them rather than in stainless steel. And I certainly did season them properly! I heard just recently they're supposed to be cleaned by rubbing salt in them. I'd never heard that before. It's neat that your grand daughter is now using your skillet.

Friko said...

I own black cast iron frying pans (skillets), casseroles, small and large, grill pans, tiny pans and pots, medium sized and large ones, all heavier than me and very hard to lift even with two hands. But I still have them, use them and lovingly prove them. All I want is, that either my daughter or daughter-in-law actually want to inherit them.

Can't see it happening, they don't have Agas to go with them, like I have, and they have years to go before they can retire and spend time cooking.

It's sad and I know I should get a life, but I love my pans.

LC said...

Wonderful heritage! My mother and all my aunts were stupendous cooks and cast iron skillets and dutch ovens were familiar to me. But Mother's efforts to teach me to cook were all for naught.

Unfortunately I would rather be reading, writing, weeding or watching House Hunters International or Property Virgins than doing kitchen stuff. We don't starve because hubby likes to cook or at least he likes having edible meals. Now our grown sons cook, too.

Stephen Hayes said...

What a wonderful story about your family. My father-in-law worked in an iron foundry before WWII and received an iron frying pan from the boss as a wedding present. We still use that pan, and it serves as a vivid reminder of them. Happy Easter.

Celia said...

I love those pans too, we used to take our cast iron frying pan camping with us just like my parents did. Dad was our cook too, and taught us how to care for those iron pans.

MaryB said...

I love those cast iron cooking pots and pans and the hand-me-down directions of how to take care of them and use them. I love even more the cycle of family. The twists and turns it takes and how it evolves is something that could not be imagined when the married couple began. Doesn't matter, it's the journey the family has traveled. Thank you for putting this all together.

joared said...

Enjoyed your iron skillet memories.

I remember all the good chicken, fish, etc. my Mom cooked in her cast iron skillet. When she died I brought her skillet home, but not that many to cook for in my home by then. I have the skillet still -- will pass it to my dtr if she wants it. My son enjoys cooking, so maybe he'll want it, too. Oh, dear! Guess I'll have to buy a new one so each can have an iron skillet.

Olivia McClelland said...

Trev is an amazing cook! Glad to see he is working up his magic down south!

Brighid said...

I have a good relationship with my cast iron ware... Love my cast iron kettle, it has puffed out steam on many a wood and gas stove... sort of like me...