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Cast Iron Trauma




My partner recently forgot their cast iron pan as they prepped to host an event at a local venue. They'd packed the food and the bread and all the utensils but somehow forgot the crucial piece of cookware.


They sent me the SOS text so naturally, I located the cast iron pot and made the short trip over to the event. My partner thanked me profusely, but as I set off for home, I felt strangely sad.


After a little reflection, I realized the reason was the cast iron. I never handle cast iron pots or pans. I avoid them at all costs. My partner likes to keep their cast iron frying pan on the stove and I've grumbled about it many times, commenting on how much space it takes up on the surface, but it occurred to me that my issue goes so much deeper.


In the past, I've written about the difficulties of my childhood, growing up with a narcissistic, controlling father. I know that other people had more traumatic childhoods. Other people have suffered more certainly, but the traumas of that childhood echo out through my life in such a way that I am still struggling with them.


As a young girl, I was given a list of chores to perform which is only fair as a family works best when it works together. One of my prime jobs was washing the dinner dishes which included gathering all the dirty dishes, pots and pans that had been left strewn around after the meal.


As a quiet conscientious child, I gathered up all the plates, cups, and silverware. I rinsed those off and placed them into the dishwasher. Next, I filled up one side of the sink with hot soapy water and worked my way through the cooking pots. One of the pans I'd never cleaned before and it looked thoroughly greased up and dirty so I spent a good amount of time working to get it clean. Finished, I placed it in the drying rack from where my brother would go through and dry everything before putting it all away.


I'd made it back to my room before the screaming started. I returned to the kitchen to receive the screaming lecture about my stupidity for treating a cast iron pan in such a manner (I'd never worked with cast iron before and I had never been told or taught that it should be cleaned differently from the rest of the kitchenware).


This may not seem so traumatic but my whole childhood was like this: walking on eggshells, always trying to do things the right way, but no matter how hard I tried, I always seemed to botch something. Whether it was using too many paper towels to clean the mirrors or bringing wildflowers to my mother, everything I seemed to do was wrong. Somehow I was supposed to know everything without being taught or told.


Of course, there would be screaming if you asked questions beforehand so my modus operandi was to always try to work as quickly and quietly as possible and hopefully avoid notice. If I got lucky, he would direct his anger at one of my brothers instead. Always, though, interactions with my father were unpleasant and unavoidable.


When my partner and I hosted an event last year, one of our friends cooked up a cast iron pan full of blueberry cobbler which sounded delicious, but afterward they insisted on cleaning the cast iron themselves. They tried to direct my attention to "the proper cleaning of cast iron". I had to walk away in the middle of their lecture.


I don't like cast iron. I won't cook with it and I won't clean it.


I know it's completely illogical and a lot of people might think me too sensitive or too soft, but I can't look at cast iron without remembering some of the worst moments of my childhood. I suppose that I could try to dismantle that particular trigger and maybe I should, but I'm not emotionally there yet and I honestly don't know if I ever will be and that's ok.


Sometimes the best we can do is just to survive our childhoods and move forward, a little damaged, a little shattered but as long as I keep moving one foot in front of the other, it's a small victory and, for me, it's enough for now.




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