I’m always looking for a way to get The South on my shoulders and I haven’t compressed my spine yet.
Some immoveable spirit keeps time to the rhythm down here and I just get to holler about it as some half-wit ambassador. Most of the real heavy lifting is done by whole hogs dripping over coals of green oak, Spanish Moss dancing down the road to Station Creek Landing, Pepsi marquees on poles lit by old halogen, and something intangible none of us get to touch. Maybe, it is this concocted spirit I see and hear in my cavern of mind, who knows.
While not exclusive to The South, cast iron cookware does rate high mention with generations of home and professional cooks from Memphis to Wilmington. They are prized tools of a timeless trade and a piece of kit I refuse to forgo in our kitchen when it comes to daily fixings.
We celebrate food in our home. Everything about it. Acquiring, prepping, and of course, circling up to eat it. Sometimes, I even cut on a little theatre with the waterworks to send my wife running for me when I split an onion in half instead of long ways. It still works and reminds her that she has married earth’s oldest five-year old. I’ve been twice dosed with a charm for food by my family and travels since figuring out how to get dressed. Bringing out the pans or putting fire to the Blackstone is one of the best ways to close a circle around the table.
George Motz, self proclaimed burger expert and eccentric, uses cast iron for most of his demos to replicate regional burgers and for the crown jewel of an influencer’s Instagram story, the Smashburger. Cajun backcountry master and star of Discovery Channel’s, Swamp People, Bruce Mitchell makes use of wetland bounties cooked up front porch style on a Blackstone flattop with his own home-shot YouTube series.
Carson and I pulled off a rendition of his Brown Butter Catfish recipe while leaf-looking and drinking beer near Mushroom Point on Jocassee a few Octobers ago. It was quick, easy, and packed with flavor. A failsafe distribution of even heat will provide novice and pros a backstop of confidence for consistency; a major need when doing a big, hot roast on thick carrots or something dense, like halibut.
Flavor is not the only advantage; durability is too.
Seasoning raw pans or flattops is the standard operating procedure for preserving and getting the most out of them. Some people use vegetable oil, some use grapeseed. It’s Clemson or Carolina, it’s fried or grilled; the preference sits with you and when properly maintained, will win any last pan standing contest with ease. Being a porous surface in its natural state, cast iron will absorb years of layered joy the more it’s used and that foundation comes from a good initial seasoning and those first couple years worth of cooks. The slicker the better.
From bacon to cornbread, one of the better ways to get under food is with the trusty old dark and heavy. They’re a great stove top go-to for eggs and sausage before work. Potatoes roast gold and crisp in them with a dash of peanut oil. Cobblers or crisps can be baked with lots of butter and spring time berries or fall apples in Dutch Ovens and deep pans. Local cow and pig purveyors Skyland and Bluewall Farms and Satterfield’s offer pasture raised products ranging from brats to beef short rib that are sure to add a flash of Upstate flare to any pan and put smiles on faces around the table.
The South has a world of ways to get recognized and we do get show and tell right, sometimes. An accent, a pair of boat shoes, GMC 2500s with the leveling packages – yes, these are in fact several key items needed to round out a Luke Bryan starter kit.
Food must be looped in with this whole spirit thing I’ve dreamed up under the haze of regular 0400 mornings. On lease from the past as a gift to the present; the medium – a pot, pan or flattop – doesn’t matter. Every meal cooked, every hour over flame locks that old repeat offender called time into place for future, good use.