The Pioneer Skillet

My momma’s skillet and this columnist are featured in the fall issue of the Pioneer Woman Magazine.

Well, it used to be my momma’s skillet. She gave it to me when I left home almost 40 years ago.

And there it is on page 72 of Ree Drummond’s new magazine.

If by chance, you aren’t familiar with Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman), she has built a media empire that grew out of a blog she began writing in 2006. It chronicles her daily life with a husband and four children living on a large ranch in Oklahoma.

Her story is one of a metropolitan woman who married a cowboy. Her tales of adapting to her new life resonated with millions, and her world has grown to include a TV show, several books and cookbooks, and a mercantile in her hometown of Pawhuska, Oklahoma, among other things.

So, how does a guy living in East Texas wind up with a small feature in the magazine of one of the most popular women in America?

First, let me tell you about my skillet. It is nine inches in diameter and is old. How old, we don’t know. From the limited information it provides and some online research I did, this piece of cast iron likely was made by one of two companies: Wagner or Griswold.

What I know for sure is that this skillet originally came from my dad’s maternal grandmother and was used by my mom to prepare virtually every meal I ate growing up.

I can recall being just the right height so that the cooktop of my mom’s gas stove was eye level for me. My mom would put some bacon renderings in that skillet and turn on the burner. The flames would dance around the bottom of the skillet, and the grease would begin to sizzle.

My mom would then put sliced potatoes, breaded okra, or whatever else was on the menu, into that piece of cast iron. I can still see that kitchen in my mind, smell the smells, and hear my mom talking to me as she cooked for us.

When I was a child, there were three things that were part of every meal. We always had fried potatoes, white gravy, and homemade biscuits. The first two were made in that skillet. The biscuits were baked on a cookie sheet in the oven.

Often at dinner or supper (there is no lunch in Arkansas) my mom would make me a fried baloney sandwich, which was blackened to perfection in that skillet.

I was always interested in learning how to cook, and my mom would show me how to make basic things. As I got older (around 11 or 12), I decided one Friday after school that I would cook dinner and clean the house for my mom before she got home.

I don’t remember what I cooked, but what I do remember is that I used an SOS Pad to remove all of what I thought was built up on that skillet. When my mom got home and I proudly showed her how clean her skillet was, that’s when I learned about how cast iron skillets are seasoned and that the build up was supposed to be there.

I never cleaned the skillet that way again.

In spite of my misstep, my mother bequeathed me that skillet when I moved out after high school. I’ve had it with me ever since.

Back to The Pioneer Woman. My wife and I are big fans. One evening last January, we were watching her TV show, which featured her using her cast iron and bragging about how much she loved it.

At the time, I just happened to be logged on to the social media network, Twitter. So, I sent Ree Drummond a Tweet, thanking her for highlighting my favorite cookware. Now, most of the time when you send a Tweet to a celebrity, it’s likely that they never read it, much less respond or have someone respond to it.

But, a few months later, I received an email through my website. It was from a lady named Lauren who worked for Hearst Publications in New York City. She told me that Ree was launching a new magazine, and that my Tweet had caught someone’s eye (I have no idea if it was Ree or someone else) and asked me to expound on my love of cast iron.

I wrote a short bit, similar to the one I just shared with you in this column, and sent it to her. A short time later, she emailed again and asked for pictures. One of the skillet and one of me. She also asked about my plans for the skillet.

I wrote her back and said that my mom’s skillet, along with my now much larger collection of cast iron, will go to our grandchildren.

A couple of weeks ago, I received word that I had been selected to be included in the second issue, which is the fall edition. Other cast iron lovers were also selected. I share a page with them.

It is now available in print at several locations, including Walmart. There’s also a digital version that can be purchased through The Pioneer Woman app in the App Store online.

Needless to say, my mom is pleasantly pleased about this whole thing and is currently in the process of buying every copy she can find.

So, if you want one, you’d better hurry before my mom finds them first.

 

©2017 John Moore
John’s new book, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now, is available on Amazon.

 

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