thrift scores: cast iron!

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that I like to cook (and bake). As such, perhaps you’ll be surprised to learn that my kitchen is missing one of those “must have” items:

A cast iron pan.

Cast iron is one of those things that seems to have a cult following. My first introduction to cast iron was in the Girl Scouts, when we used dutch ovens for all manner of campfire cooking. Sometime in college I realized that this material also came in a pan form, suitable for use in a home kitchen. I heard people waxing rhapsodic about flavors, the feel of cooking in something so authentic, and so on.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really get it. Sure, cast-iron seemed great, but was it really that great? Also, it was expensive. And heavy, a key consideration if you move often. And you can’t use soap on it, what’s up with that?

A couple of things converted me to the idea. First, I learned that food cooked in cast iron pans often absorbs a bit of iron in the cooking process. As a female vegetarian (i.e., high potential for anemia if I’m careless), that was appealing. Second, I had a couple of really AMAZING cast-iron experiences: cornbread, and home-fried potatoes. From then on, I was quietly on the lookout for a cast iron pan to call my own.

I toyed with buying new, but I never got around to it. I kept an eye out in thrift stores, but our big local thrifts are notoriously Not Cheap, and one time I even saw a pan listed at a higher price than it would have been new!

This weekend we went to the one “cheap” thrift store in town, mainly to check out the clothing selection. But of course I had to root around in the kitchen implements. Buried under a pile of dubious looking aluminum things were a duo of cast iron pans. Affordably priced at $16 (for the pair). We snapped them right up, took them home, and got to work on seasoning with flax oil. Last night I gave the larger pan a test drive, preparing this assortment of legumes, roots, and vegetables:

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Verdict: I’m officially part of the cult now, and forsee much of my disposable income going to Lodge in the near future.

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In the meantime, ideas of what to cook in the baby cast-iron pan? I’m thinking adorable mini-batches of cornbread.

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