Friday, May 24, 2013

rescue mission

Having 'liked' various urban homesteading pages on facebook I've come across all sorts of 'useful' information I'll probably never need (and when I do I doubt if I'll remember where I saw it... but then that is what Google is for!) but one post caught my eye last year which was restoring rusty cast iron frying pans/skillets to their former glory. Having wanted such a pan for about two decades but never really been in a position to buy a new one I read with interest thinking well one day I might spot a rusty one at the market (Kaitaia having that sort of market!), as I was impressed as to how achievable it was.

The months went by and whilst I kept an eye out I was never looking particularly hard for one so it wasn't really surprising I didn't find one. But then during our Great Garage Clear Out a couple of months ago I found one! A bit rusty, covered in cobwebs, dust and full of flakes of burnt paper from the fire (which was about 5yrs ago!). I carefully dusted it off and put it where I knew I'd find it again and hoped no-one else would spot it and claim it meanwhile.

I'm not quite sure what happened to the intervening two months in terms of getting around to the next step but today after a quick Google search to remind myself what to do (having long since lost track of the orginal info...) I armed myself with oven cleaner (a bad idea - that stuff is foul), baking soda, salt and vinegar and a metal scourer, and in way less time than I expected I had a clean pan rubbed with oil heating up gently in the oven to season and seal it.

I decided I couldn't wait for tea time to use it so made some drop scones/pikelets for afternoon tea instead. What a delight to use - I'm so pleased with the result, and totally understand now why people get excited about cast iron. Weight alone would deter me from using big pots of it but that pan is such a great size - big enough to be really useful but not too heavy to be unwieldy.

The best part of it all though is rescuing something and getting back in use again. There must be decades, generations, of use still to be had out of that pan. I get so fed up with the throw-away culture that predominates these days. Jeanette Fitzsimon's Quaker Lecture on the economy of 'enough' put into words far more eloquently than I ever could (not to mention better researched and argued!) the importance of changing the mindset that measures success by growth, when actually usually what is needed is not more but better quality - of life, of goods, health, etc. We don't always need a new..... the old one is perfectly adequate, does the job, but one small part may be worn out. However the economics of today drives towards buying a new model rather than fix the old, or worse upgrade to the newer model when the old one still does the job just fine. If I'd known years ago how easy it was to restore an old cast iron pan I wouldn't have assumed they were out of my league financially for so long, mind you then I would've probably had to lug one half way around the world...

I read lots of self sufficiency style books in my teens/early twenties, both practical and autobiographical, but it seemed a lifestyle beyond my abilities and way too time consuming to fit in alongside an active Quaker one etc. But through blogs and facebook I'm finding an increasing number of people seeking a way not so much going back to the 'olden days' way of living but incorporating some of the ideals and practices of self sufficiency into modern urban life. Somewhere there needs to be a happy medium between modern excessive living and the deprevation of the Great Depression which prompted so much household ingenuity to make do and mend. Finding that balance is a skill in itself, such as crafting rag rugs because they can be beautiful and practical rather than because it is the only floor covering you can afford, or baking your own bread because it tastes nicer and is better for you.

Someone said at YM that her generation (she is well into her 70s) has an opportunity now to pass on such skills and knowledge to the younger generations who can use them because they want to, because they want to be part of a world with less waste, to lower our carbon emissions and environmental footprint. And we have the advantage of being able to do so in conjunction with the advantages of C21st living - we can share via the internet what we are doing so others can learn too, we have instant access to a far wider pool of knowledge and ideas than our grandparents and great grandparents did. There are materials available they never had and advances in technology that make more things achievable. One of the other finds in the big clear out was a bean slicer - imagine needing to thinly slice bucketfuls of beans to salt down to preserve for winter? Thank heavens for freezers.

One other find I also want to clean up properly to use is the antiquated hand mincer, we don't have a (functioning) food processor and it will be far more effective than me chopping stuff up for my fruit and nut chocolate slice! Maybe that is a job for the rather wet day forecast for tomorrow...

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