Sometimes I talk about baking on here, which doesn’t really have anything to do with writing, but is still a reasonable thing to talk about. Because I like baking. I’ve been doing it since I was really young, thanks to the fact that being homeschooled always left my afternoons free, and early afternoon is, as everyone knows, the very best time to prepare something delicious.
I am not, however, what I would consider a natural baker. My mom and my sister both excel at it. They have a flair for it. They have an inherent understanding of this crazy thing called craftsmanship.
I … do not. I’m too meandering, too unstructured. I like flourishes and tangents and experiments and never doing things the same way twice.
Which means that at heart, I’m all about cooking.
I love cooking A LOT. So much that sometimes I search out things that look especially hard to make, just because I want to spend as long as possible in my kitchen. So much that when someone asks me what I’d like for Christmas or my birthday or any other gift-giving occasion, my answer almost always involves some kind of cookware, and when I got my first book deal, the way I celebrated was to get myself a really good set of knives.
(Also, they are for cooking, and not, as some people have insinuated, because I’m morbid and creepy and like sharp things. )
(However, if the zompocalypse happens, I already have my melee weapon all picked out. It’s the eight-inch Damascus steel chef’s knife with the ergonomic handle.)
In addition to my fancy knives, I also have a stand mixer, a blender, a really excellent stove, all the baking dishes in the world, a good rolling pin, and a pretty decent selections of pots and pans.
Also, this is not a post just about cooking, even though it kind of looks like it. If you shade your eyes and squint, it could definitely be a post about craft, or writing, or maybe even life. Because you know what else? The absolute most indispensable item in my whole kitchen is this:
This is a twelve-inch cast iron skillet that I bought from Target for eleven dollars the summer I was nineteen. It is the absolute dearest possession in my entire kitchen.
An abridged list of things this pan is good at:
- Getting crazy-hot.
- Pressing things flat.
- Fighting anemia. For real.
- Giving your arms a good workout.
- Being indestructible.
- Anything other pans are good at, only better.
With this one pan, you can make all of these things: broiler-ribeye, pineapple upside down cake, bacon and eggs, buttermilk biscuits, pancakes, fried fish, other fish, any sautéed vegetable, any topping or filling or sauce, Swedish meatballs, chicken-fried steak, and latkes. (Also, this pan has almost unilaterally devoted itself to what tastes delicious, rather than to what is particularly healthy.)
If this were a writing metaphor, I would tell you that a cast iron pan is knowing how to write a basic sentence, and that all the other griddles and trays and pans are just fancier dishwasher-safe versions of knowing how to do that same thing.
If it were a life metaphor, I’d say that Teflon is when you make everything way too complicated and over-think all the things you said in that meeting and wonder if anyone saw you almost bite it when you slipped walking up the steps, while the cast iron pan is you lying on your back in the yard, looking at the stars and feeling completely at peace because you know the surface is just as non-stick as Teflon, only you can still use steel wool without scratching it. You can leave it sitting on the burner and it will never warp because it got too hot. (Which is something you cannot safely do with the complicated life.)
But this is mostly a post about cooking, so mostly, I’ll just say this: if you have a cast iron pan, you can make almost anything.
Because you need a special tray for that.