A push towards simplicity and more healthy living has awakened the joy of cast iron for me. I started a few years ago with a square pan that we use to cook eggs for breakfast. And then, a few months ago, I found a couple of old cast iron pans at a local flea market. I did an initial cleaning and re-seasoning of them, but then put them away until today, because it can be quite a process to get an old one ready for use again. For several hours, I worked on cleaning them up further and re-seasoning them. While I scrubbed, I thought about how people are a lot like these two pans. We all have a past. In any relationship, we can move beyond the past and help others along on their journeys, as they help us. We just have to be willing to get our hands dirty, and work hard on the relationships.
One of the pans I found was an 8″ skillet, by its markings, likely made in the late 60s; it was in better condition than the other, but it was still full of gunk from its past. I started scrubbing the pan with salt and steel wool, and then soaked it in vinegar and water. That breaks down all the gunk and starts to make the cast iron smooth again. I repeated that process a few times, drying the pan in between, and then sanded it down with fine sandpaper. The gunk started to come off and the pan was turning back into something close to new. I thought about all the meals this pan had cooked in the past, but was so happy to get it cleaned up so that, together, we could make new creations going forward.
When I was satisfied that the gunk was removed, I rinsed and dried the pan, coated it with oil, and threw it in a hot oven to season for a few hours. My hands were black and greasy, but I was so happy to have some “new” pans ready to cook in.
Then, I panicked. I should have taken “before” and “after” photos to show the difference all my work had done for the pan. But, as I lamented, I realized that “before” didn’t matter. It was in the past, and all that mattered was now, and what we could do together in the future.
I turned to the smaller pan. The 6″ pan was unmarked, except for a little bitty “1” on the back of the handle, and it could possibly be older than the 8″ pan. It was definitely in poorer condition. The handle had been sawed into, as if some little boy wanted to prove to his friend that a hacksaw really could eat into cast iron. Its outside surface was pocked, and it was thick with gunk, both inside and out. I worked for a long time on the smaller pan, but it didn’t want to give up its gunk. It gave up some, but there’s still work to do.
DAY 50 HOMEWORK: Who do you know that needs a nonjudgmental friend to help them through the gunk in their past? It may take some hard work and dirty hands, but if you stick with them, their present and future (and yours) can turn into something beautiful.