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But I did choose a spouse correctly? |

But I did choose a spouse correctly?

Over the last 67 years or so I have read dozens of instruction manuals and listened to eons of well-meant advice. And the major conclusion I have reached is that there are tasks that you can never perform correctly, because whatever choice you make will be diametrically opposed to the next bit of advice you receive.


A partial list includes:

The salvation of the immortal soul;

The care and maintenance of a computer battery;

The break-in of a new automobile engine;

The raising of a child to be a good citizen;

And the use, care, and seasoning of a cast-iron skillet.

It is a very nice skillet. Highly recommended by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, it is black and shiny with corrugations inside to allow grease from the more illicit forms of ground beef to be drained away, thus bypassing the arteries of the elderly husband. It weighs maybe eight pounds and was made in Tennessee.

Renowned skilletology experts contend that the most endearing characteristic of cast iron cookware is its slight porosity, which tends to absorb cooking grease and so provide a non-stick surface not composed of morally-incorrect Teflon. In fact, this is likely cast iron’s only endearing characteristic, since it is also heavy, fragile, has handles that heat up, and can break your foot if dropped thereupon. Cast iron cookware disappeared from store shelves some 110 years ago, likely on the very day that the first aluminum skillets arrived.

But Natalie was charmed by Cook’s endorsement, so we bought the big square skillet and lugged it home. But then she began to read the Internet, where sectarian diatribes rage continually over maintenance of the highly-prized “seasoned” surface of the highly-recommended pan.

Now, I really don’t want to tell Natalie this, but a cast iron skillet needs no more maintenance than a cast-iron manhole cover, which it closely resembles in both form and composition. And what that “seasoning” really is, is the grease left over from whatever you cooked last.

Therein lies the basic dilemma of cast iron: while it’s authentic, earth-friendly, and traditional, it rusts like a Buick brake rotor 20 minutes after a good scrubbing. It is meant to be used with last week’s grease on it; last year’s grease, too.

The modern woman, e.g. Natalie, is accustomed to pans that are shiny and spotless inside and out. If tomorrow our Revere Ware frying pan were to develop a porous, black, somewhat greasy inner surface, the reaction of my beloved would be immediate and emphatic.

I, the indentured dishwasher here, have endeavored to compromise. I shall wash Iron Man with a dish brush and some yellow Fels-Naptha bar soap we purchased in the geriatric section at Walmart. This should allow me to look busy while preserving the pan’s, uh, seasoning, a task which one accomplishes by not really washing it.

I’m sure it’s okay, because everything including slow-aged bacon grease is rendered sterile by the heat. Natalie has reserved judgment.

Mark Kinsler is a science teacher from Cleveland Heights who lives in an old house in Lancaster with Natalie and the five cats. He can be reached at kinsler33@gmail.com. “Skillet” is a funny word: skillet skillet skillet.

Category: Skillets  Tags: ,  Comments off
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