My Iron Pan Treasures

| 2/17/2015 12:06:00 PM

Renee-Lucie BenoitI've had just about every kind of cookware imaginable. Why, I even demonstrated Tefal French non-stick cookware in Macy's when I was young. (Teflon! Pure PTFE coating, folks!) My great aunt once gave me a Lifetime brand stainless steel cook pot that I still have. But the piece de resistance of my cookware stash are my old iron pans. I got them when my grandmother passed and I cherish them like they are precious jewels. Not only do they remind me of my grandmother (she received them as a wedding present when she was 19 and had them until her death at 87) but they have been my mainstay through every phase of my life.


My beautiful iron pans

I'm kind of a pioneer-ophile (if there's such a word). I read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a child. I also read all of Willa Cather's books when I got older. I see images of a covered wagon rolling across a prairie with the black cast-iron skillet hanging from the wagon’s bow. My dad cooked his Canadian specialty Shanty Beans in a cast-iron dutch oven buried in the earth under hot coals. So you see this sturdy black cookware was a highly prized possession of my ancestors. I'm not the first to have it be left to favorite relatives in wills. I think every self-sufficient home should be cooking with cast iron.

What's so great about cast iron? As you can see it can last a very long time when properly cared for. That makes it an economical choice. If properly seasoned, it's better than any PTFE non-stick Teflon thing. It's better because it will not leach unhealthy chemicals into your system and, in fact, in can add healthy iron to your food especially when you're cooking with acidic foods such as tomatoes. If it's properly seasoned, you don't have to use as much oil to cook with. Food cooks evenly in it because it distributes heat evenly. I don't need to be a scientist to claim this. My experience of 40-plus years of cooking tells me so.

On the "lighter" side, it's heavy so you can use it to build up your muscle strength. If I can lift my pot with one hand I feel a trip to the work-out place is less necessary. I've yet to brain my husband with a pan, but it's there if he needs it. You need to practice with firearms, but if you're hefting an iron pot every day you've got all the practice you need when the time comes. When I watch old movies and the heroine grabs a knife out of the drawer to defend herself, I think now why didn't she grab the pan? If the bad guy has a gun she can use the pan as a shield and then clock him on the head with it.

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