I bought a new cast iron pan today, a 10-inch deal small enough to make cute little loaves of Irish soda bread. I do this in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday I honor in memory of my VERY Irish grandmother, Kathleen Conant (maiden name McGrath) who left this world two years ago but remains with me in spirit as strongly as ever.
As I seasoned the new pan this afternoon, I thought about tradition and ritual. Grandma Kat was a Catholic, and one of the things I love most about Catholicism is its rich legacy of rituals. In a way, seasoning a cast iron pan is a secular ritual, one of those time-honored things that women have been doing for generations in my family, a way to connect me to the past.
Basically, cast iron pans are like relationships, too. You can’t expect them to be perfect right out of the box. The pans get their character, their nonstick surface, in time, requiring a little bit of tender loving care and preparation. In a plug-it-in-and-nuke-it microwaveable world, the old-fashioned charm of the cast iron pan is often lost. Please note: As more and more studies decry the dangers of teflon, I’m moving toward using cast iron instead. As the cowboy often says, some traditional practices were perfect as they were and don’t need improving; the cast iron pan is a perfect example.
To season your cast iron pan, use a paper towel or cloth to coat it with cooking oil. Then bake it in a 350 degree oven for an hour. That’s it. Not a big deal, right?
I guess I can tend toward the dramatic, seeing connections where none really are. That’s how writers are. But today, as I greased up the new pan and wiped it down, I felt my grandma there, looking over my shoulder with a smile.
Now, onward! Let’s make some soda bread. I’ll post pics and recipe in a bit.