Friday, December 02, 2005

Pots and Pans

What defines a relationship? Is it your friends? Your church? Your children? Your house? Your jobs?

In our case, it is cast iron frying pans.

Last night, I was cleaning up after dinner and was working on one of the pans. It is the oldest of our collection, a Griswold, eight inch, that I inherited from my grandfather. I brought it into the relationship and for a long time, it was our only cast iron pan. It is a beauty. It is so cured that it is slick and smooth, the color of ink. It takes very little oil on the post clean cure. Nothing sticks to it. It is strong and rich. It is everything a cast iron pan should be. It was old when it came to me and I cherish it.

After we had been together for several years, we decided to buy another cast iron pan - a Dutch oven this time. We were in Duluth at the time and there was this old, funky hardware store across the bay in Superior that was a place out of time. It was run by a couple of old Jewish brothers that had grown up there. They were both deaf and partially senile. The store had everything. There were boxes of hardware dating back into the 1800's. There were two-man crosscut saws left over from the lumber boom in the 1880's. There were draft horse collars hung on the walls with one hundred years of dust on them. There were shelves and bins of boat builders stuff that covered everything from the days of multi-masted wooden sailing vessels up through the triple-expansion steam engine powered lakers of the mid-nineteen hundreds, to the diesel engined 1000 footers of today. The main floor was covered with those eight-by-two foot tables that you always find in the basements of churches on food days and they were covered with boxes of stuff. Some was new junk like you would find in the back room of a 5 and dime. Some was salvaged from some where on some other planet. You could go in there and spend a whole day and come out not knowing what you had really seen. That's where we got pan number two.

It is a Dutch oven as I said. It came with a glass lid that now has a big chip out of the under lip (the part that hangs down on the inside of the pan and keeps the lid from sliding off sideways) from a time when I got careless. It has taken a long time to get out of its childhood. It was a rambunctious pan in its youth. It would drink oil after every use and still look like it was a virgin. When I would clean it up and cure it, the paper towel would come off stained with remnants of the meal that still lurked in the pores of the iron. I yearned for the day when Number Two would clean up as slick as Number One. It has been about fifteen years now and it is finally starting to show some maturation. It is developing character and depth. It is my spaghetti pan and handles that job with panache. I love cooking with it. Its deep sides contain the most robust recipes. I can simmer stews all day with the lid cocked just slighty ajar. It is a pan that has great potential. I would love to see it in fifty years.

Pan Number Three is a baby, but the biggest of the bunch. We bought it last summer to take over for a large but shallow non-stick that was scratched and warped beyond usefulness. This pan is too new to really take seriously. It is like having someone in middle school who has a crush on you. You try to allow them the room to grow, but the difference in experience prohibits any kind of meaningful relationship. If this guy sticks around another ten or twenty years, perhaps then there will be something. In the meantime, we will nurture him as best we can.

Our relationship is somewhere between Number One and Number Two. It is mature and deep. It takes regular care, cleaning, and curing, but it is so well seasoned that it is easy to maintain now. We have passed through the early rough spots where bits of the world would stick to us and require concentrated effort to clean up. We know each other now. We know how to care for our pans.


Blogger Sister Spikey Mace of Desirable Mindfulness said...

I came here from Crystal's blog, and my heart is already breaking.

You live where my family is from. My dad grew up in East End, and lives there again, with my mom, who's from Maple just east on US 2. You feel like family just because you are from where I am from.

Sending hugs to you.

10:43 PM, June 29, 2006  

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