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