2017-08-27 / Family

The cast iron pan that came to breakfast

By JANINE TALBOT
Columnist

My son-in-law is one of a kind — polite, genuine, funny, and wicked smart. His transition into our family was seamless, which says a lot, considering just how crazy we are. He is also, as we have discovered over the last couple of years, an excellent cook. This is a good thing because the other half of The Love Couple — First Born — is not exactly a fan of cooking. You can’t blame it on genetics. I enjoy cooking, but do so more out of necessity than a passion for it. Spouse will occasionally chip in and make (most of) a meal, but if it’s anything special I am reminded of how good it was for an interminable amount of time. He made spaghetti sauce in 1986 and still talks about it. 

Last weekend, The Love Couple paid a visit to Maine and we enjoyed some much-needed family time. During their stay I realized how seriously The Groom takes his cooking. We had experienced a taste of his culinary delights last Thanksgiving in Atlanta. This time he promised to make homemade cornbread and guacamole while here in Maine. I tried to find out ahead of time what ingredients he would need, but he insisted on picking them out himself. Fine, I thought. I can understand that some chefs are quite particular about choosing things like produce and spices. But then — 

He brought his own cast iron pan.

That’s correct. Even though I had a cast iron pan that was perfectly good, which he could have used to make his delectable cornbread, he chose to check a bag at the airport just so he would have his own seasoned cooking vessel. Oh, and he also brought his own special-ordered grits.

We discovered it’s not avocado season when the Groom attempted to make guacamole and almost broke the counter with the green rocks he purchased. Spouse, Second Born and I ran back to the store and found the only five ripe avocados in Maine. The end result was amazing and completely wiped out within a day. 

Over the weekend this 50-something mid-lifer who has been making meals for more than 30 years with considerable success (my lasagna is especially noteworthy), was schooled in the art of seasoning a cast iron pan by a 29-year-old. Then I confessed to several cast iron cookware infractions:

I’ve used soap and a sponge on my pan.

I don’t always dry it immediately after cleaning it. 

I have cooked eggs in it. A lot.

In the world of cast iron cookware, these lapses of judgment could end in disaster. My son-in-law wasn’t taking a chance that my pan may not be seasoned properly or the appropriate weight for his cornbread recipe. He was correct — it wasn’t seasoned, but isn’t one cast iron pan the same as the next? Oh no, I learned. Different manufacturers and different eras meant different weights, as faithful cast iron users know. The Groom researched them, read reviews, and eventually found exactly what he wanted on eBay, not Wal-Mart like some of us may have done.

Because I was never going to get around to it, I took him up on his offer to season my large cast iron pan. This method involves applying and reapplying oil or grease (in this case, bacon grease) to the inside and outside of the pan, then baking it at 375 for about 45 minutes … I think. All right, honestly, I wasn’t fully paying attention except for acknowledging this was probably not the week to have the oven on for any length of time.

My son-in-law is trusting me to use kosher salt to clean my pans going forward. I didn’t make any promises but it was with a sigh of relief that I unearthed kosher salt in the cabinet, thereby proving that my intentions were good.

I can’t let him down even though technically he showed me up. That cornbread was like a little slice of heaven. I will accept that someone younger can still teach me a few things … but I guarantee I’ll be doing the schooling when it comes to using a lasagna pan.

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