For all the cooking I do, I did not own a cast-iron skillet. I must have mentioned this to my mother in passing because, in maternal tradition, she, like her mother did before her, and my grandmother’s grandmother did before her, presented me with a beautiful cast-iron skillet for Christmas this year. I was so excited! In our family, a cast-iron skillet is the purest form of cooking craftsmanship. The person who can truly master this beast is the understood, albeit unproclaimed, chef.
Last night I decided to whip it out for the first time. I hand-washed it, dried it, covered the bottom in extra virgin olive oil (and I add dried spices like thyme, rosemary, and basil), placed it in the oven, and let it drip-bake off for an hour. After, I pulled it out again, gave it a good washing, and prepared to make my cauliflower rice-and-mozzarella stir-fry.
When I was done with cooking, Frank, my husband, came over the skillet and looked horrified at all the crusty pieces that had browned the skillet. “You ruined the skillet your Mom gave you!” I looked over at the skillet and knew it wasn’t ruined, it was seasoned.
That’s when it struck me. In the New Year, we’re so focused on the shiny and new, whether it’s the new gifts we receive or the new promises we make to ourselves, that we don’t look deeply at what brought us there.
2017 was a rough year for me. I suffer(ed) from depression, I gained weight, I lost touch with friends, I struggled with my career, I made business decisions that I wouldn’t make again – I burnt out. For every metaphorical and clinical determination of the words, I sincerely burnt out. I lost myself inside of myself.
This week was the first opportunity I gave myself to actually relax. I read, I cooked and baked, I finally cleaned my house, I made soap, I spent time with my family and my dog. Despite breaking out with some crazy rash that made me look like a red crocodile, I allowed myself to just be. I refused “opportunities,” I said no, I stayed home, I made a planner, and I’m working on a vision board.
I realized I am not unlike my cast-iron skillet. I have grease that won’t wash off, stains from my past, but beneath it – or better yet – because of it all, I am a cast-iron skillet.
While I am not one for resolutions, because real change takes real time, I am all about being reflective and I decided that the grease is what got me here. Of course, I have made mistakes, and I would chalk it off to being human, but it’s so much more than that. I don’t believe we ever conscientiously make the mistakes we do, we do what we think is best for our happiness at that moment in time.
What we need to realize is that the grease, our choices, are all part of the composition of ourselves. Sometimes they weren’t right, but I think it’s more like our wiser selves seeing a new picture because of that grease. Without it, we would just be a shiny, new cast-iron skillet with no flavor, no culture, no essence of being.