• Caring for Cast Iron
  • Post author
    Cassandra Leu
  • carecast ironcooklovepanpoemseasoningskillet

Caring for Cast Iron

Caring for Cast Iron

I’ve had a cast iron skillet for nearly 30 years.

A tool of my first enduring romance, I used it often

And it performed well enough.


I had no real idea how to cook or care for that pan.

Not washing it with soap seemed unhygienic, especially when

We were so young and often let things sit overnight

(After dirtying every dish in the house to make

Even the most basic meal.)


It fed us anyway. It grew hot under flames, browned meats

Heated sauces, sautéed vegetables.

I learned how to use it but never followed guidelines,

Never understood what it meant to be seasoned.

Foods stuck and I let it soak with hot bubbles

For an hour or a day—I cringe now to remember that—

Before scrubbing away everything it might have needed.


The shadows of years leaned in and out of that pan

In our various kitchens and I continued to scrub with soap.

Life was busy and more often than not, cooking was a chore.

Still, I kept using that pan and it fed us all.

It was forgiving. Its color changed over time and I thought

I was doing something right.


It fed one fewer of us for a while and was not used much;

I had no desire to cook.


And then I fell in love with a man who had a pan like mine

But his pan was perfect, perfect—richly seasoned and rewarding

In a way I had never known.

It held a mesmerizing sheen and worked like magic

Making meals of mouthwatering delight.


I was suddenly lost in the power of that pan and a meal well done:

The elevated fragrance of ginger and sautéed onions, beautiful

Browned edges on a sweet potato, the thrill of heat

On my tongue from a wealth of exotic spices—

All of this foreground to the ease of care required

When a pan is loved just right.


I haven’t scrubbed my pan since then, not with soap.

I’m handling it carefully.

Slowly it is changing, deepening, magically yielding to food and spice

In ways I could never have imagined, and now

After nearly 30 years,

It delivers an unexpected joy—savory and sweet—

To my table and beyond.


~ A love poem by Cassandra Leu, a writer in Santa Rosa, California

  • Post author
    Cassandra Leu
  • carecast ironcooklovepanpoemseasoningskillet

Comments on this post (2)

  • Jan 27, 2017

    Awww….. how touching and how very very beautiful, this ode to the skillet!

    Every summer when I stay with my oldest sister (she who has a degree in home economics), I fight with her about not washing her skillet (which, by the way, was a gift from me, as I had perceived a sore lack of one in her kitchen) with soap. Her husband is with me on that front, but unfortunately, since he is often the culprit of leaving a greasy pan out until my sister wants to use it next, he has no leg to stand on and thus complies with her demand to have it washed with soap. I keep sending her articles in “care of cast iron”, to no avail. I suffer every summer.

    — Katharina

  • Dec 04, 2016

    I too have a cast iron skillet (a set of 3 actually) acquired when I was a new bride. They were a steel color when I first got them but through some 40 odd years of care – oiling, wiping clean, salt to remove stuck on food – they have the patina of a wonderful life. They are some of my prized possessions and will be left to someone who will appreciate them as I do.

    — Sue Ellen Hargadon

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