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This blog started out as solely focused on food. cooking and spirituality are incredibly co-mingled for me, and now I'm adding to the focus by making the blog more about my spiritual life in general. I hope the result is something readable!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Seasoning!

This post is going to be a hodgepodge of thoughts, much like the fermentation one. Hopefully once I get past the 30 Days posts the blog will tend to lean in more this direction. The 30 Days posts, by the way, are obviously taking more than 30 days but I have a lot of thoughts swirling about the Gender post and I've written it like three times and haven't felt fully satisfied with it so it'll be a while. Don't worry. It'll get done.

Anyway, the topic of this one is Seasoning! But not really like..about spices. Although if you want my opinion on spices my answer is this: CUMIN. Maybe turmeric.

The seasoning I'm discussing here is about process, about shaping something and the way something becomes itself, or, more itself than it was before in its raw state. (okay yes a lot of crossover with the fermentation post)

I've been drawn to things lately that require seasoning: I find it soothing and empowering, using and re-using and repeating these steps to enhance my connection to an object and make it come alive for me and work to its full potential. And this happens in my spiritual work and the kitchen. I'm starting to think that there's really no difference between those two realms.

Let's talk about Cast Iron Skillets. Because they are simply fantastic. I tend to need to boost the iron in my diet,  and cooking with cast iron helps accomplish that. The thing with cast iron of course is that it needs seasoning. If you get one new from the store, it will have a rougher surface, more graphite than black, and THINGS WILL STICK TO IT AND YOU WILL CRY. Unless you season it. The process is basically this: Clean it out with soap and water, dry it thoroughly, don't let it air dry because that way lies rust. Then, IMPORTANT: Slather that thing in fat. If you're of the vegan persuasion use a vegetable oil, but be sure to use one with a high smoke point because you don't want it turning rancid and leaching all sorts of horror out into your food. In my kitchen worklife, I like to use bacon grease. Or if I have extra around from pie adventures, homemade lard.

And then you bake your skillet (or dutch oven, or griddle, or what have you) in the oven, at a low-ish temperature, for a long time. And turn it over, and rub it down with a towel, and make sure that the fat is soaking into its pores. Cast iron has pores. and you want to basically cook that lubrication into the pores, and keep cooking with it and taking it to the cookware spa, basically, until you develop a smooth as glass shiny black surface that no egg will stick to. It's hands-on, sort of intimate caring work that by its very nature fosters a sense of connection and familiarity with a kitchen tool. When I season cast iron, I am helping to bring it to life.

It did not occur to me until recently that there was anything I'd call magical involved in this process, but it snuck up on me and caught me unawares. During my ongoing study of hoodoo I realized that the basic repetitive care annointing process I'd been using on my skillets is essentially the same steps one would take to make a mojo hand, or various other types of conjure working. These things need to be "fed," to use the terminology, which emphasizes that what is being made is a living spirit, and it needs to be sustained through continued care on the part of the practitioner.
I gave my number 3 skillet a name without even really thinking about it. I call it Baby Skillet and I'm very protective of it, which, okay, looks a little deranged to an outside perspective, but Baby Skillet and I have an excellent working partnership and my breakfasts would not be the same without it. By that extension, I would not be the same without it.

More recently, in my tea-appreciation journey, I've purchased one of those Really Excellent Ancient Chinese Secret Totally Superior Yixing Clay teapots you may have heard touted at Teavana. I'm not going to get into my problems with Teavana here, but yixing (or zisha) clay has some really nice properties that make for really, really, amazing tea preparation, depending on the type of tea. Not so much green tea, since the pots tend to hold heat too well and turn it bitter. But oolong? puerh? spot on. And it did not come as a surprise to me at this point that my new teapot needs to be seasoned, though repeated brewings and washings and care. Already by the third brewing, the teapot has lost almost all of its "I've been in a box" smell, and the tea that comes out of it is starting to taste better.

Of course this is going to be a long process, and the teapot (I'm thinking I'll call it Marceline? since it's sucking up color?) is still very much in the absorption process so the tea does not quite have the nice thick mouthfeel that it would if I brewed it in a nonporous container like a gaiwan. But I'm okay with that, really, because I know that if I keep working with the teapot and invest time in a long-term relationship with it, this will be more rewarding for me in the long run.

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