When I was eight years old I became aware of my father’s cast iron skillet. It had been in our family for years.
I was getting interested in cooking. Encouraged by my mother and grandmother I graduated from mixing everything in the kitchen in a bowl to making buttery ramen noodles and frying eggs.
One morning after reading one of my Calvin and Hobbes books I decided that it was time to make pancakes. My mother and younger brother were cleaning the bathroom and I had the kitchen to myself.
I thought “They’ll be so happy and surprised to have pancakes for lunch.”
I mixed the Aunt Jemima batter and looked at the box. It recommended putting dollops of batter onto a hot skillet.
I thought back to my comics.
The only thing in the kitchen big enough to accommodate all of the batter I’d made was this wide, deep cast iron skillet. I put it on the range with some oil in the bottom and turned on the heat. I waited until I felt that I couldn’t wait any longer, then I began pouring the pancake batter into the skillet.
It went well enough at first. I watched for bubbles. None appeared. A minute went by. Still nothing. I tried to flip it as I’d seen my dad do with cornbread so many times before. The pancake broke into soggy pieces and began to smell funny.
Now there was smoke. MY PANCAKE WAS BURNING! I desperately tried to flip it.
It was no good. I took the skillet off of the heat and tried to dump the uncooked batter back into the mixing bowl. The skillet was heavy and pancake batter hardened on the skillet’s edges.
I looked around at all of the smoke. I took the skillet to the sink and ran water, hoping to soften the burned batter enough that I could scrub it off before anyone noticed. Then I walked to the back room where my mom and brother were still cleaning.
“Hey mom.” I said.
“Hey Sean.” she said.
I went back to the kitchen and began trying to scrub the pan.
She came in a few moments later. “What happened?” She asked.
I tried to make pancakes and burned them I answered. Truthfully enough…
She walked to the sink where I was scrubbing. She saw the cast iron skillet.
“Just go help your brother in the bathroom.” Her words trailed off.
When my dad got home he saw the skillet and knew something terrible had happened.
I had to explain to him what I’d done.
When I finished he could only laugh. The damage was done. “Oh boy. That’s not a pan that you should use.” he said. “You can use anything in the kitchen except that pan.”
Eleven years later he was showing me how to make cornbread in the skillet. I asked if he remembered what I had done so long ago.
“Yeah. I remember.” he laughed. “It took me until last year to get it seasoned again.”