8 Lessons Cast Iron Has Taught Me About Grief and Hope

There is a resurgence of home cooking and interest in cooking shows it seems.  But at the same time, it is also my understanding actually cooking skills are lacking in the generations that are coming up these days.  The Boy Scouts of America has not only re-vamped their "Cooking" Merit Badge for this reason, they also made it a required badge for the Eagle Scout Rank.

When I became a single parent following my wife's death, I knew all about cooking but the kitchen was something she took over years ago.  I had a hard time adjusting to the kitchen at first until I started using my cast iron dutch oven.  Then I started using the cast iron I inherited from mom.  As I used it and learned, I started adding other cast iron unique to us.  Along the way, I've learned a few lessons about cast iron and life.  I'm always amazed how little things can offer powerful lessons...

1. The hotter the temperature, the better the seasoning will bond.

I'm not an expert but I have read a good bit and practiced a good bit so I think I've got this.  When you are seasoning your cast iron, you've got to get the oven up to around 500 degrees so the oil and iron BOND.  This creates the non-stick surface cast iron is known for.  Grief and suffering can do the same thing.  The lessons get bonded to us and our lives and help us fulfill all we can become.

2. No matter the years, you can keep cooking.

Many skillets and pans will reach a point that they are no longer any good.  They make their way to second-hand stores, yard sales, or thrown away.  You CAN find cast iron in some of these places but rarely.  Why is that?  Cast iron doesn't go bad.  The lessons of years of grief and suffering don't ruin us - keep going.

3. Reseasoning is not a chore, it is a caring act.

Cast iron care can be seen as tedious; a chore.  I suppose it is but then so is being a parent or a spouse if you look at it that way.  Dry it. Keep it oiled. Reseason it if you need to.  Cast iron will not fail you but you can fail cast iron.  Don't stop caring for your heart and soul.  It will not fail you - it is you.

4. Cleaning with soap doesn't mean you got it clean.

It is so easy to think "easy."  We want things done quick and fast not right and thoroughly.  We think soap will be a shortcut to cleaning cast iron when in fact it destroys the seasoning and oils that protect it from rust.  We think we can make something clean by using some new idea or technique when in fact it only break our heart and soul down

5. Cast iron goes from the burner to the oven and back: it is multitalented.

This is one of the "coolest" (pardon the pun) things I have discovered about cast iron cooking.  It also points to one of the hardest things about dealing with other human beings: we like to put everyone in their place and give everyone a category.  People don't work that way.  We change and life changes us.  We can go from getting cooked on one side to being cooked all the way through.

6. People don't use what they don't understand.

I had misconceptions about cast iron.  Most folks do.  I was told you can't use water to clean it.  I wasn't taught about caring for it properly.  Different ideas exist about seasoning.  With so much information, it can be overwhelming and just easier to not use it.  I think this applies to religion and faith too.  We don't fully understand it so we just put it away and forget about it.

7. Cast iron never needs to be tossed away.

But once you really learn about it, you realize cast iron never needs to be tossed away.  It can be taken back to the "beginning" and re-seasoned for use.  If it gets rusted, it can be cleaned.  If it was seasoned improperly, no sweat, redo it.  It naturally adds iron to our foods, something we all need.  No stick surfaces aren't new either - cast iron always had it.  Even if a skillet gets warped, it is still perfect to move from the stove top into the oven.

8. Cast iron should be passed on.

My mom found out a few years ago that cast iron skillets just were not practical for her to use anymore so she gave them to me.  I really did go through all these thoughts I've written down here because even though I knew about cast iron, I didn't really "know."  Other than my Boy Scout dutch oven, I stayed away but my mom was right to pass them on.  Cooking with cast iron has brought a connection to tradition and brought a new spirit to our kitchen and our family.

There are always places to learn new lessons.  Sometimes, those lessons point to new life and hope.  Look. Listen. Learn. Live.


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