Hunting for Cast Iron

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Ipacked it securely in my suitcase, and said a prayer for it to arrive safely. Usually my suitcases seem to be inspected as I carry the strangest things home from Ga. It’s not unusual for me to have five pounds of flour, bags of peanuts, bricks, rocks, even frozen BBQ and stew. It arrived intact! My husband was shocked to see that large pan emerge from my suitcase! It measured about 17 inches across and weighed over 20 pounds! I think the size is what attracted me to buy it.

I have two pans my mom gave me years ago and we have my mother in law’s pans that she always cooked in until she bought a non-stick pan. One day he found them hanging on a nail in the garage; he brought them home!

This past year I discovered a few cast iron Facebook groups; they revived my interest in cooking with cast iron pans again. I soon became interested in buying more pieces and it wasn’t long before my husband became interested and he learned how to clean them. He set up a vinegar and lye bath in the shed outside and began cleaning our pans; most afternoons I’d find him outside scrubbing away. It’s quite a process from the cleaning to the seasoning in the oven. It was amazing to see grimy, gooey pans turn into brand new looking pans. That’s the one neat thing about cast iron, they transform back into their original new state after cleaning.

Every weekend had us scouring the tag sale ads and flea markets. After a few weeks of finding nothing at tag sales, I finally spotted a lonely cast iron skillet lying on the ground. It was quite gooey looking but I picked it up to ask the price – trying to not show how excited I was. I found the pan to be very light in weight and quickly thought that wasn’t a good sign – wasn’t cast iron supposed to be heavy? Boy was I uninformed! When they told me the price was 5 dollars, I told my husband that I didn’t think it was any good so I laid it down. What was I thinking? I didn’t even offer a haggling price! I didn’t have the knowledge then that I have now or I would have thrown the five dollars at them and ran to the car with that grungy light pan! Every time we’re near that street now I often think I wish I’d bought that pan or just know who made it. The older cast iron skillets are lighter than the ones made today that feel like boat anchors! I never found another pan all summer at tag sales!

We soon branched out to flea markets and began hauling cast iron home every weekend. It’s now become quite an obsession to have one, two or three of every pan we see in the books. Hubby enjoys the aspect that he can restore them to their original condition. The hunt has taken us all over our state and led us to see places we never knew existed in our small state of Connecticut.  I’ve documented our travels with hundreds of photographs, but I’ve enjoyed the time spent with my husband the most. As the weekend approaches he usually asks “where are we going?” To stay home is unthinkable! We each try to be the first one to spot the pans, and if one of us misses it, the other quickly says “look what you missed!”

Displaying cast iron is difficult, but we’ve become quite creative at it. When and if the kids discover all we have, we are in trouble, but whatever happens, we’ve had the time of our life hunting for cast iron!

LETTERS IN THE MAIL

When was the last time you received a handwritten letter in your mailbox? And I’m not talking about your email mailbox!

I have always been a letter writer. When I was a teenager I had several pen pals. In fact I had 7 pen pals in Hawaii! Some of their letters to me are still glued today to the pages of my scrapbooks. A few years ago after signing up with Facebook I decided to see if I could track down a couple of the girls, and after much searching I received a message back from one. She remembered me and we have now become friends on Facebook.

Even during the Vietnam War I became pen pals with a boy and he wrote quite more in the letters than a teenager would have. But he was lonely and looking for a girlfriend. He even came to visit when he returned back to the states.

In my family research, I wrote many letters to people asking for information and pictures and patiently waited for their responses. And it was always so exciting to find a letter waiting in the mailbox.

One of the most interesting letters I ever received was when I was contacted by a 90-plus age woman who wrote me about my Civil War grandfather. I was blown away, knowing that there was someone living that actually knew a Civil War Veteran. She wrote very descriptive letters about his death, funeral and even down to who built his coffin. She, at a very young age even helped drape the black satin cloth inside on top of the piled high cotton. This was the type of letter you wanted to share with someone – right away. But often there’s no one in the house that’s as excited as you.

The last letter I’ve had written to me was from a women in Greene County, Ga. who wrote me after reading an editorial I’d written in the paper. She wrote me several letters detailing life in her early years and of the area in which I had questioned.

I truly treasure my letters written to me and have saved many of them. Now I ask you, when did you last write a letter to someone? Sit down and surprise someone with that letter. Letter writing is truly a lost art due to our computer era of “you’ve got mail.”