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I've been looking into buying some cast iron cookware. On another message board, a friend of mine were discussing the issue. She asked "Why cast iron, and why Le Creuset?" (Le Creuset is the brand name of the cookware I want). I started to type out why I thought I wanted cast iron, then I stopped and thought about why I really wanted it. The resulting ramble kinda surprised me. I thought others might find it interesting, so here it is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Me View Post

A bunch of reasons. Like most of my desires, it's complicated and vague, even to me.


Mostly it's a style thing. I'm not saying I think cast iron pots are fashionable and I want to hop on the bandwagon or anything. But in the last few years, the way I eat and the way I see food has changed radically. Growing up, I would NEVER have thought I'd ever become vegetarian. When I first went veg, I didn't even know why I was doing it. I just felt that eating dead animals was suddenly gross, and I stopped.

The more into veg "culture" (for lack of a better word) I got, the more connected I felt with my food. My mom cooks like a...cooking god...(would that be Fharlanghn, maybe? He always seemed like a guy who'd enjoy cooking)...but I still grew up eating a lot of processed food. She worked some of the time, and my dad doesn't really cook, and I imagine she just got tired at times. A typical day for me in high school would be no breakfast (never hungry in the morning), fried chicken and potato wedges for lunch, a can of tuna for an after-school snack, Hamburger helper, dinner buns and a salad for supper (salad made of iceberg lettuce, carrots, cucumber and radishes). Probably with French or Thousand Island dressing. And lots of coca-cola all through the day. I like vegetables, certainly, but they weren't a staple in my diet. Bread was always white.

Basically I ate what tasted good. After I went veg, I started reading ingredient labels and figuring out what was actually in my food and where it came from. I had a massive shift in perspective. Like, I'm ashamed to admit it, but before I went veg I had no idea how dairy cows gave milk. I sort of assumed all female cows just gave milk their whole lives -- after puberty -- sort of like women getting their period. We're talking massive ignorance here.


My first year after going veg, I still ate pretty badly. Slowly I began to connect how food got out of the ground and into my belly with how I felt, the effect on the environment, and the effect on my conscience. It used to be that if it came in a plastic wrapper and I could microwave it, awright! Bonus points if it was cheesy and/or creamy.

Now I feel a lot more connected to my food. I don't munch "because it tastes good and I'm bored" as often (though I still do...a girl's gotta have some treats!). And I still snack and eat processed food (diet coke is my weakness). But I feel a lot more conscious about how I eat. I feel ill sometimes when I think about the stuff I used to put in my body. The perspective shift has impacted my whole life; I've been evaluating why I do the things I do. Separating routine from desire. I do everything so fast and grab for instant gratification half the time without knowing why. Lately I've been trying to slow it down. I didn't even want to buy a microwave this move, but Jason [my husband] insisted.

And as my ramble draws to a close...cast iron symbolizes a more methodical way of eating to me. It makes me think of days when people ate what they grew or killed themselves, and took their time cooking. Taking the time to season my skillet, cook my veggie sausage in it slowly, rinse it out in hot water, wipe it down with oil afterwards to keep it seasoned...it's kind of like meditation. Weird, I know. But I like rituals.

Does any of that make sense? And on a more practical note, cast iron is incredibly durable, heats evenly, and I'll get an iron boost when I cook acidic foods (which I can always use).

As for why Le Creuset, for the last few years I've been hooked on cooking and food prep chats hosted by the Washington Post (and also, oddly, their restaurant reviewer's chats. I find them fascinating. I've never been to DC, but I know all about its dining scene). Many a time I've heard chatters and hosts rave about their Le Creuset purchases, and so I started thinking I'd like to have some. Total peer pressure.

Man, I did not intend to say all that. It just kind of fell out. Oh well, it was cool!
 

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You won't get an iron boost when you cook acidic foods if you're using coated cast iron (which I believe Le Creuset is). That said, I have an uncoated, non-name brand cast iron pan that I just love -- I used it to make eggs, naan, injera, pancakes, and fried tofu, among other things.
 

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My cast iron skillet is also non-coated. I've seen the le Creuset pans at the co-op and thought they might be an interesting choice, but the truth of the matter is that I cook at least 75% of my food in that one cast iron skillet that was on-sale at my local supermarket. The rest of my pans are stainless, and they mostly get used for boiling water.
 

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You can't season a Le Creuset pot, because it's entirely coated in enamel. Le Creuset is nice because you get the benefits of even heat distribution of cast iron, with pretty easy cleanup, and no hassle of having to season.

But it's about 10x as expensive as regular ol' Lodge cast iron, which you do have to season and which imparts iron (in very small amounts) to your food.
 

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Mmmmm cast iron. My mother has had 2 cast iron skillets since I was a girl.

I'd forgotten how nice it was to cook things in them until I bought one of my own last year. I love how it distributes the heat and foods come out so beautifully in there. I even bought an iron pan to bake some corn bread. (Did a soy/corn dog in there and it came out nicely!) I'm thinking of getting some more since Carolina Pottery had a huge choice of this particular brand (can't remember which as I write and I'm too lazy to run downstairs to find out what and come back up) and in all kinds of sizes and types. Price was easy on the wallet, too.

But before I plunk down more... is there anything I should look for and avoid (ie downsides to certain types of iron pans, etc.)??
 

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My skillet was given to me about 20 years ago by my ex mother in law. She had it for about the same amount of time. I still use it occasionally but not as much as when I used to fry chicken.

If you don't season your skillet right stuff will stick to it (google seasoning and care of iron skillets). Plus, you don't need to cook on a high heat for the whole time. I usually start higher and end lower. The plus side I've found since going veg is that I can put the whole thing in the oven. I like the veggies sizzled on it. Keeps them crunchy but gives a good taste.

The main pots and pans I use are stainless steel. I can't have high iron levels in my liver.
 
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