There was this great article in Time magazine entitled "A Pan for all Seasons" and I only wish I could take credit for its brilliance. If you are a southern cook it says nothing new but supports everything you already know. I can hear those great cooks in kitchens of my youth shaking their heads and saying, "Uh, Duh." I guess this means a Lodge frying pan is the "in" thing now.
I get tickled when I try to explain to someone the secret of good southern cooking starts with the cast iron frying pan that never leaves the top of your stove. And, it is better if you are lucky enough to cook with a second or third generation one. (In our family, it was the second most sought after possession in the will, and second only to the Mikimoto pearls. But, I digress.) Nubies are following along with great interest until I get to the part about cleaning it - or not.
You see (as you should know) with a true cast iron frying pan, it never sees soap and water. You clean it with salt and a good rag. This is where the true cooks follow along and the Martha Stewart and Paula Deen wanna be's leave to find something on the Food Channel. The key to the frying pan is having it seasoned - hence the beauty of a "hand me down". Of course, Lodge now has pre-seasoned frying pans and I will admit they are truly seasoned, so you can skip the part where you grease the pan with Crisco, put it in the oven for God knows how long (until the smoke alarm goes off), and then take it out, wipe off the soot, let it cool and repeat the process.
Every time I finish cooking with mine, it is an act of love when I wipe it clean and rub a small amount of oil in it (while it is still warm) knowing it is then ready for my next culinary adventure. It is a thing of wonder - although not magic, it will not fry chicken on its own. Trust me, I have tried to see if it could - to no avail.
We were taking our oldest daughter to look at the University of the South on her college tour and low and behold if we didn't find ourselves in Pittsburg, Tennessee, home of the Lodge foundry (and, better yet, the Lodge factory outlet!) On our way back we stopped by to see everything Lodge. I was able to get a deep sided frying pan, which is what I use today. And, after one visit by the fire department and finally just taking all the smoke detectors down in the kitchen, I am proud to say I seasoned it myself.) Now I also have a Lodge cast iron wok that I use regularly and stays on my stove top.
So, yes, I also cook with an assortment of Calphalon and Le Cruset, but it is the Lodge cast iron pans that tells me someone show 'nugh knows how to cook. When I walk into someone's fancy kitchen, I don't look up to see what's hanging on their pot rack, I look down on their stove to see what sitting there. Chances are, if they have a cast iron frying pan, it never leaves the top of the stove.
And if, under your breath you are saying, "I just couldn't have a pan that was never cleaned with soap and water." Darling, let me tell you two things, if you are in a southern home, never eat the fried chicken and if the sanitation of the cast iron frying pan were an issue, most of the deep south would have long been wiped out by some pathogen.