#YourStoriesMatter: Rediscovering Cast Iron

Each of us has a unique voice and perspective to share. Too often, the same voices dominate. At The Practice Space, we aim to help people share their stories and connect with others. That is one reason started this new blog project: #YourStoriesMatter. It enriches each of our lives to hear a diversity of perspectives – so we hope you too will share a story! This story is our second one. If you haven’t read Trishna’s story about starting her own company, be sure to check it out. We will continue publishing people’s stories on our blog so please let us know if you have one to tell! We look forward to sharing the unique voices in our community. Hope you enjoy!

Rediscovering Cast Iron, By Matthew La Rocque

I wake up as my 10-month-old daughter, Daria, squeals with growing urgency: she’s hungry. I’m on duty this morning, which my wife Laura reminds me with a gentle nudge. I pull out of bed, fetch the bottle of milk from the fridge, pluck Daria from her crib, and move the bottle toward her eager lips. Daria is happy now. Still sleepy, I close my eyes for a few minutes while she fuels up. 

I’m a creature of routine, and mornings have started this way for months. But what happens next is something new. While sheltering in place, I’m no longer getting Daria ready for daycare, commuting to the big city on a crowded BART train, or working face-to-face with colleagues in an office.

That loss of routine has complicated my daily rituals and commitments, like it has for so many families. But it has also given me the gift of more time at home with my family, and with it, a chance to rediscover things in my home I only now realize I had been ignoring.

One of those things is my cast iron pan. I bought it years ago on a whim, but quickly learned that it took effort to maintain and was less forgiving than nonstick cookware. After a few incorrect uses, the pan had lost its pre-seasoned sheen and started to rust. So it sat in the cubby below my oven, mostly untouched.

Now, with restaurants closed and more time for cooking at home, I started wondering what I might have hidden in my kitchen. One day I pulled out the pan and began to discover it anew.

Cast iron cookware, first known to be used in Han China at least 1800 years ago, grew popular worldwide by the 19th century. While modern aluminum and stainless steel pans ultimately captured some of that enthusiasm, cast iron has in recent years seen a resurgence. One of its special qualities is its ability to evenly distribute and retain high heat—both on the stovetop and in the oven. If cared for correctly, it can also last a lifetime.

While cooped up at home, I found helpful YouTube videos that taught me the secrets of cast iron care, including proper cleaning and the magic of periodic re-seasoning. Before long I felt more confident using my pan, and within days, I used it to make a pizza, a frittata, and a steak. While each dish is quite different on its own, all three feature crispy, caramelized exteriors—a cast iron hallmark. I particularly recommend this Bon Appetit recipe for pizza lovers who wonder why their ovens at home struggle to reproduce the delectable crusts found in wood-fired pies. The recipe takes full advantage of the cast iron to make a flavorful crust that truly crisps.

The mini renaissance in my kitchen began with the loss of my old routine. But in its place is a new one, already two months old, that is now filled with predictable rhythms and tasty food. While anxious to return to “normal” and reclaim the in-person connections so many of us crave, part of me wonders what I might lose when my old routine seeps back in my life. When that time comes, the new challenge will be holding on to the things I’ve re-discovered in the here and now. The good news? My pan will be in my kitchen, waiting for me.

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