Cast Iron scared me. It came from a time when people knew how to change wooden wagon wheels, make candles, and clean clothes on a washboard with homemade soap. I was a professional turned stay at home mom to a 2 year old and a 5 year old. My days were filled with library story time, play dates, and the children’s museum. My nightly dreams were filled with the echoes of Green Eggs and Ham, The Seven Silly Eaters, and Barnyard Dance. Where would I find the time, or energy, to re-discover a cooking style so old it had been lost to antiquity and all we knew of it was the depictions we saw of it in the picture books based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood?
Yet cast iron called to me for the same reasons it scared me. It seemed so back to earth. Something so basic that I should be able to do it while the kids gathered eggs from the chicken coop behind our garage.
Suddenly, without warning, I found myself buying a cast iron pizza pan. I rationalized that a pizza pan wasn’t like a skillet or a dutch oven. It only had one purpose—to make pizzas. It wasn’t like I was committing myself to learning cast iron. I could buy it and it would just sit in the cupboard until I was ready, whenever that might be.
When the pizza pan arrived I was in love. I stroked it the way my husband stroked his well-waxed, red, 4-wheel drive truck. Here was a machine that was as beautiful as it was functional.
When I decided to buy a skillet I knew I had to learn how to use this cookware. I did an internet search for a vegetarian cast iron cookbook and there were none. I ordered two books for general cast iron cooking figuring I’d at least learn how to use my new tools and was disappointed that there were very few recipes I could use. Then I went to my favorite online forum and asked the other vegetarians for cast iron recipes. They gave me an assortment of great ideas. The best information I got was, “Just cook.”
That seemed so simple. It really was like being drawn back into Laura Ingalls Wilder’s day. A time when lightening bugs and taffy pulls were the highlight of a child’s day. (Okay, I don’t know if little Laura ever chased lightening bugs or pulled taffy, but when one is caressing a nicely seasoned cast iron skillet, metaphors and history all meld together.)
So I started cooking. First it was broccoli in a garlic and margarine sauce (that was before I learned to make my own vegan butter.) Then a curry. Then creamy potato soup. (I was so nervous that my pot would rust even though I had seasoned it 10 times.) And somewhere along the way I decided I wanted to share what I had learned with others. I figured if I was once scared of cast iron and couldn’t find many vegetarian cast iron recipes, certainly other folks were looking for the same thing.
Cast iron no longer scares me and I hope that if you have any fears of using this timeless cookware that I can help you leave those fears behind. (And if you’re not afraid of cast iron cookware, I hope you’ll enjoy my recipes.)