Cast Iron

Anyone who is serious about their cooking will tell you: nothing cooks like a cast iron pan. It can sear a burger or gently cook an omelette. It can withstand the heat of a broiler, and keep things warm off the stove long after it’s been removed from heat. Bacon, popcorn, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, steak, pizza… practically any food cooked in a cast iron pan is just better. It takes time to learn how to cook on a cast iron properly, how to clean it, how to season it, and how to maintain it. But a cast iron pan is indestructible.

Oh sure, there have been a long list of wonder-pans and high-tech coatings over the years: Teflon, titanium, ceramic, red copper, and porcelain to name a few. Each infomercial shows food stuck to a cast-iron pan that’s thrown into the trash, while a fried egg slides effortlessly around in the new amazing pan that you simply must have. What, you’re still using cast iron? That’s your grandma’s pan. It’s outdated, old fashioned, yesterday’s news. There’s something much better, just three easy payments of $19.99 plus shipping and handling. Act now and we’ll throw in a set of steak knives and this chef’s apron, absolutely free! But after a few years, the amazing coating starts peeling off or the supposedly indestructible surface is scratched and chipped.

All too often, we are lured away from what has been working well for centuries by the exaggerated promises of something new and supposedly improved. The people who keep doing things “the old way” are maligned by the proponents of “the new way”. We put men on the moon, have decoded DNA, and have developed computers that are unbeatable on Jeopardy… certainly we can figure out how to make better cookware than cast iron. Certainly we can replace diet and exercise with a pill. Certainly we can come up with a better arrangement than Biblical marriage.

Over the past sixty or so years, we’ve seen a lot of marriage fads come and go. All sorts of supposedly “new and improved” arrangements for cohabitating and raising children that look back with scorn at the way their parents and grandparents did things. The cast iron pan of Biblical marriage was shoved to the back of the cupboard, sold at garage sales, or just thrown out. In its place came wave after wave of new ideas, and authors who supposedly had figured out the secret to successful marriages talked about their revelations (and their new book) on Oprah. All the while, the people who followed the advice of the author who not only wrote the first book on marriage but who invented marriage to begin with, are maligned as “old fashioned” and “out of date.” One look around will tell you how successful the new and improved ways have been.

When we finally come to our senses and throw out the wonder-pans, we return to our forgotten cast iron. A little seasoning and it’s as non-stick as ever, and ready to take heat that would destroy other pans, and still deliver amazing pancakes. Cared for properly, that cast iron pan will be a family heirloom, passed down for generations, with children and grandchildren telling stories of their first memories of grandma’s fried chicken or grandpa’s French toast, as they pull out their own cast iron pans to replicate the magic.

When we as a society realize we fell for Satan’s infomercial and pull our trusty cast iron pan of marriage out of the back of the cupboard, we can begin to rebuild this society. Yes, it takes a little work to maintain. Yes, it takes years of practice to develop the skills to use well. But the knowledge of how to use and maintain the cast iron of marriage is something we can learn from our fathers and grandfathers, and it is information that needs to be passed on to our children as well. The lessons learned of how to lead a family, how to care for it, and how to maintain it are lessons that children and grandchildren will tell as they start their own families and strive to replicate the magic of their parents’ and grandparents’ indestructible cast iron marriage.