Alson Kemp


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Cast Iron Skillets: meditations on seasoning

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TL;DR: Do your worst and hack-and-slash at your cast iron skillet or carefully season it and exhibit it to your friends. Doesn’t matter; it’ll still be a cast iron skillet.

Not sure anyone will read this but I don’t particularly care: it’s a bit of light in the darkness of Covid.

I do everything with my cast iron pans. Tomato, wine, whatever. In contrast, many cast iron aficionados advocate loads of rules about how to use cast iron:

  • Don’t wash it with soap!
  • Don’t scrub it!
  • Don’t cook acidic foods in it!
  • In fact, don’t look at it! That’s quite enough!

Sure, follow those if you take an impractical view of very practical cast iron cookware. These remind me of so many little facts which are exploded into hard and fast rules, which are then passionately advocated without regard to the rule’s utility… Cast iron seasoning zealotry…

What’s the absolute worst thing you can do to a cast iron skillet? Remove the seasoning. Maybe let it rust a bit? Guess what? You still have a frickin’ cast iron skillet. These things get picked up from junk yards, left outside in the rain, whatever. How are people cooking on their great-grandmas’ cast iron skillets if these things are so delicate? Settlers carried these things on pack mules up yonder pass and all that. It’s fancy pig iron but it’s basically pig iron.

Seasoning is certainly important for cooking but most folks seem to think seasoning is important for showing. Seasoning is easily reapplied and can be applied however well and however often you desire. I don’t desire to do either much, so I don’t: oops, I forgot to clean out the skillet last night. Guess what? I still have a great frickin’ cast iron skillet; gave it a rinse but that wasn’t enough; scrubbed the hell out of it and removed the seasoning… Guess what? You still have a great frickin’ cast iron skillet; left it in the garage for five years? Guess what? You still have a great frickin’ cast iron skillet.

If the skillet looks a little sad, I scrub it clean of any sticky bits (and probably a bunch of seasoning), rub some vegetable oil (blah, blah, flax seed oil) around on it with a paper towel and throw it in the oven for an hour (but I forget and it sits in a cold oven overnight…) or leave it on the stove with a low gas flame for 30 minutes. I dunno. It’s pretty non-stick and I don’t show it to people expecting them to gaze jealously at my skillet’s perfect seasoning.

The alternative to a bit of fiddling with cast iron is regular non-stick pans but the non-stick coating never seems to last that long and I want to use metal utensils to hack at my food. Then I have to throw away the no-longer-non-stick non-stick pan and I’m sure someone will tell me a seagull or seal will eat it and die. That seems like a bad thing so I just keep banging on my cast iron skillet and then re-seasoning it. With just 5 minutes per month you, too, could save a seagull or seal. Don’t be a bad person who kills seagulls and seals. Also, don’t be a cast iron seasoning missionary (yes, I see the irony).

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Written by alson

August 16th, 2020 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

On Euthanizing A Companion Animal

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[This is rather off-topic but it’s cathartic and might be helpful to someone.]

We recently euthanized a much beloved family cat. The process was both straightforward and bewildering. Herewith, notes on our experience along with suggestions about how we might approach it differently in the future.


This is about the mechanics of euthanizing a particular animal.  It should be applicable to larger animals in different environments.  Emotional and spiritual aspects are not addressed; those are difficult enough but not understanding the mechanics of the process only compounds the difficulty.

The Animal

He was a gregarious and happy cat, though he was a little “well fed”. In the last month or two, he’d looked rather slimmer, had taken to “hiding” in unused rooms and then to snuggling aggressively, was not eating or drinking as he normally would. Tests were done, nothing was found and the downward spiral continued over the next few weeks.

We took him to another vet. They looked at his teeth, listened to his heart, squeezed his belly… and said we’re going to take him in the back room for a moment. They came back with ultrasound pictures (no charge) of a significant tumor.

At this point, the discussion turned to heroic (tumor resection + chemo) and/or palliative measures (he might be comfortable for a few more weeks with prednisone), no doubt to assure the pet owners that euthanasia was not the only option. This discussion was quickly cut off: we appreciate the situation, we know his condition, we know where this ends, further pain is not warranted.

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Written by alson

June 7th, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized