I’ve decided I’ve lived in the South long enough to own a skillet. And by “skillet,” I mean the honest-to-goodness-cast-iron variety, the likes of which Sipsey used on the Bad Guy in “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” and Rapunzel chose as her key weapon in “Tangled.”
This is actually the second skillet I bought. I lost the first one. I had purchased the first one to cook a rather enticing recipe I discovered on a blog that I followed during my blogging phase (a phase which was, like the Macarena, short-lived and unfortunate). The recipe was for cherry upside-down cake, made with corn meal, almond meal and fresh cherries. It took two hours to make, and it was delicious.
But then I lost the skillet. And before you ask how it is possible to lose something as imposing as a cast-iron skillet, I will explain that the problem is in the storage of it. It’s like figuring out where to store an anvil. I learned that it is not supposed to be stacked or covered, because that messes with its “seasoning,” and that the oven is a good place to store it. Of course, the problem of what to do with it when you are actually using the oven still exists; it needs to be stashed someplace where it won’t fall on your foot.
So I moved it to a corner beside the dining room table, then under the guest room bed, then in the storage room in the basement, moving deeper, ever deeper, into the recesses of our home until it lodged (heh heh) comfortably somewhere, never to be found again, unless, perhaps, by a future homeowner or an archaeologist on a dig.
But our society is going retro on its road to wellness, and, thumbing my nose at Teflon, I jumped back on that train and bought another skillet.
A cast-iron skillet, however, is way more retro than Fiestaware; in fact, I don’t know how far back you have to go before you’ve passed “retro” and landed on the prairie over an open campfire, but there I was, faced with a new skillet that was primed and ready for seasoning, and even for something as iconic as a frying pan, I must admit that I found it a bit intimidating.
Seasoning is the process that makes the skillet somewhat cling-free. I honestly think that I never seasoned my lost skillet properly, so I decided to do study on it. I learned that there are as many opinions on the proper way to season a skillet as there are opinions on the best way to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. Everyone, from Maratha Stewart to Emeril Lagasse to the guy whose wife is videotaping him in their kitchen, has an opinion.
First, you wash it—but maybe with soap or maybe you should never use soap. Then you rub it with oil—but maybe using a paper towel, or maybe you should never use a paper towel. And your oil is maybe lard, or maybe something that has never been hydrogenated, or maybe something that comes out of a tube that is specially marked “skillet seasoning oil,” or maybe the absolute best seasoning oil is something like flaxseed oil and you’ll have to go to a health food store to buy it and it will cost $16.99 a bottle.
Then you bake it in the oven, upside down on a foil-lined pan, or not… for 30 minutes or an hour or an hour and a half…at a setting of 325 or 350 or 375 degrees, and you leave it in there to cool for a long, long, long time because now the anvil is a burning hot piece of iron that could brand you.
Or maybe you forget the oven and do the whole thing on the stove.
And you go through this once or twice or three times, depending on time of year and what your zodiac sign is and, most likely, how bored you are.
So I chose eclectically and added my own personal twist. I used a “dedicated rag” and coconut oil (because it burns belly fat and would make my house smell like Tahiti) and I put the pan upside down in the oven and repeated the process three times, all the while proclaiming to my family that I would not be able to cook dinner that day because I was busy seasoning my skillet.
The next day, however, we would dine on fried green tomatoes and coconut flavored cornbread.
Robin Conte is a writer and mother of four who lives in Dunwoody. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.