Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cast Iron Memories

My first reaction was amusement when I saw a news story about a guy in Kumamoto who hit a "male relative" (bother-in-law, maybe?)for interfering in a fight with his wife.

The amusement's probably the result of having watched too many cartoons as a child.

Then, I noticed that the victim, although he had "injuries to his nose and face", was expected to take only a week to heal. That frequently used phrase in the Japanese media means quite minor injuries: scrapes, bruises, superficial cuts, and the like.

When I was growing up in San Francisco, learning to cook from my mother and grandmothers, "frying pan" or "skillet" meant a big, black, heavy, cast iron pan that required considerable strength just to carry, not to mention picking up and flipping to turn pancakes over. They were great for cooking all sorts of dishes, and very versatile, too. They weren't the sort of thing you'd want to get hit in the face with, though, for sure.

These days pretty much all the pots and pans in most kitchens are aluminum, with maybe a little stainless steel here and there, or copper for those who can afford the expense and the time to care for it. With the advent of practical non-stick surfaces, it has become pretty hard to find those heavy old cast iron frying pans, and I suspect that people who know/remember how to "season" those pots properly have become somewhat scarce, too.

I certainly don't see that sort of pan much in Japan; the closest thing is probably the ubiquitous Chinese-style woks, the best of which are indeed iron, and are seasoned similarly, but they're still a lot lighter than the pans I grew up with. I'm quite sure that I could find all the cast iron pans I could want on a trip to Kappabashi, but they'd likely be pretty expensive, and I don't cook as often as I used to, and storage space is a problem...and I'm lazy, too.

Anyway, I should thank the irate farmer in Kumamoto for reminding me of those great old skillets from my childhood. And his victim should thank whatever kind fate put a lighter frying pan in the hands of the assailant. I never seriously considered a cast iron frying pan as a weapon--there are many more deadly and easily used implements in a kitchen--but getting hit several times in the face/head by one, even if the wielder is drunk, could be expected to cause a lot more than minor injuries.

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