Growing up in a Southern home, I know cast iron skillets. My mom has had hers for at least 45 years. As a teenager, I remember cooking Sunday breakfast (bacon and eggs) and Sunday supper (usually fried chicken). I also remember scouring dried eggs or chicken crust from it because I was too lazy to rinse it out when it was hot.
What I didn’t appreciate then was the skillet never lost its shiny black interior — it was true non-stick. The crud on the exterior is a different story! Along side that skillet was grease pail. I’d strain hot bacon grease or shortening into the grease pail every time I cooked and, of course, added some of that savory grease every time I started cooking.
Scrambling eggs, making gravy, sauteing onions, frying chicken, steaming greens …. the skillet was used for every dish and every dish started with bacon grease.
When away to college and forgot the 2 magic ingredients of my family’s kitchen. Cast iron and bacon grease fell out of favor with the masses.
10 years ago, I missed that skillet and, honestly, was tired of buying and rebuying nonstick cookware that warped and scratched within 1-2 uses. guess what? People in Los Angeles apparently don’t use cast iron skillets — no Goodwill, Salvation Army or the 30+ antique stores I visited had any. Really?? Is cast iron cooking banned like smoking in public places? No nonstick skillet will sear a steak nearly as well as a cast iron skillet …. oh right, people in LA try not to eat steak.
I finally purchased 2 skillets off ebay at a price of $150+ each. Desperate times, desperate measures.
Fast forward to a weekend in Leavenworth, Kansas — yes, home to the infamous prison — and a morning of antiquing. Not only did I find cast iron skillets, I found 5 of them! And a grit pot and a chili pot. Talk about hitting the jackpot (no pun intended). To make it even better, with the exception of the chili pot, each skillet was $8! Yes, $8! The cast iron gods smiled on me, I tell ya.
I did have to transport them back to LA but, again luck was with me. My suitcase weighed 48 lbs, 2 lbs shy of the 50-lb limit!
next up, a bacon grease pail.
I followed the instructions on Men In Aprons, here:
Using kosher salt, distilled white vinegar and Crisco to season them. My skillets (all 7 of them) are now seasoned, happily settled into their new home, ready to revisit the dishes of my youth and test out new recipes.
I’m thankful to be of an age where I appreciate the small details of my youth, where I appreciate a small portion of comfort food and, more importantly, where I’m still able to lift cast iron skillets! No wonder women of previous generations never worked out.