I got a set of cast iron pans from various family members for Christmas–from the darling tiny egg pan to the big-daddy grill pan. These pans are my first venture into the world of cast iron cookware. And at first, I will admit that I was a little intimidated. Cast iron is not quite the same gig as your average non-stick pan. Cast iron has rules. Cast iron needs care and attention. You can’t fill a cast iron pan and leave it to soak–unless you are fond of the taste of rust.
I noticed in the first week or so that I was kind of dodging the cast iron. Mind you, I asked for the cast iron. This was an experience I opted into. But I found myself overwhelmed by the idea of the cast iron care steps: let it cool, scrub it out, dry immediately, warm and add slight coat of oil to build seasoning. And so I waffled for a bit. But finally I decided to dive on in. I challenged myself to only cook with my cast iron for a week. No backsliding to the old, beat-up pans that I had. In fact, I threw away several damaged pans, just to avoid the temptation to use them.
And I realized something interesting. When I was using the cast iron daily, I started to really appreciate the routine that felt so overwhelming at first. With each use, the cast iron is better seasoned, so it is easier to cook in. I appreciate how it translates the heat from my old electric stove into a smooth and even cook surface. I like the process of tending to the cast iron when it is cool, the satisfaction of feeling as though I am investing time in something my kids might cook in in 20 years. I like the way the neediness of the cast iron keeps me present and connected to this daily task.
What I recognized is that the cast iron is taking me through a regular mindfulness practice. Because it requires some routine care, I have to show up and engage when I cook with cast iron. I have to pay attention as I go through the process of cleaning up and putting my kitchen in order. I have to be present for the routine tasks. And there is a richness in mindfully participating in that routine.
Now, maybe you don’t want to sign up to cook with cast iron (but it’s amazing!). That’s fine. However, I would invite you to be curious and challenge yourself to find some things in your life that create a mindful experience for you. That force you to slow down and participate, instead of rushing through to the next challenge.
I’d love to hear what your “cast iron moments” are. Please feel free to share in the comments.