OUT OF THE FRYING PAN …

… into the bin.

Mine eggies always stuck to the non-stick frying pan and by the time I got them onto my toast they could best (charitably) be described as scramblers.

It happened every time with every would-be non-stick regardless of type. Teflon? Hah~! The best ever pans were the large and small ones we bought that were lined with some kind of ceramic ‘stone’.

Well might you think that as an impatient being I’d short-circuited the system and not conditioned my pans properly, or perhaps I’d savaged them with steel wool in the cleaning after use; maybe hammer and chisel, even road-drills? Certainly after a while they deserved it.

But no. I (note the lack of the royal ‘we’ here—Spouse always allows me to do my own eggs and for reasons best known to herself I have my very own dedicated frying pans … oops, where were we?) … but no, my pans were always treated entirely in accordance with the written instructions and to the nth degree thereof. If blameless qualifies for Paradise I’m overqualified, sainthood at least, I’ve earned my wings.

Then one morning when The Spouse was discreetly ignoring my mutterings (I was levering the latest attempt from the pan) I sensed a presence. Come to gloat, no doubt, Sages have been know to do that—(mine certainly has):

“Get thee to the place where them good lady merchants turn jetsam and dross into comforts and succour for the dying—”

“Wot?”

“Like we used on the windjammers, Lad.”

“Oink?”

Heavy sigh. Sages are nothing if not long suffering.

“Cast iron, Boy. Nothing beats cast iron for your perfect egg. Even rolling forty in a force nine … mind you, sometimes you have to search around the deck for your eggs—them pans are good at not sticking.”

Cast iron?

Now there’s a thought. A dumb thought, how can manky old iron be better than space-age technology?

I look about but he’s gone again leaving me with a nagging doubt that later that day sees The Spouse and I (Spouse and me? Whatever …) in town pondering jetsam and flotsam and stuff — what the hell did he mean?

“I have to call into the Hospice shop and drop off some stuff for—”

“Bingo!”

“EEK?”

So I accompanied her, and therein I found a gem. Okay, a jewel in the rough and I do mean rough. Very rough. No diamond was ever so encrusted with the loving scale and detritus of generations of hard usage. True, the cooking surface was smooth and clean-looking but the outside was a bit—

“Yuk! You’re not even thinking of buying that disgusting thing, are you~!?”  It wasn’t so much a query as ‘to the manner born’ in a way that makes Drill Sergeants seem old-ladylike by comparison.

“Yep.”

Candour, simply and honestly applied with lashings of benign smile and not even a hint of steely glint can defuse any potential situation.

“Then keep it away from me. And my cooktops. And my kitchen. And my house—”

My? My word, do I detect an element of ‘I can’t stop you buying it but I can and will stop it going into the house!’? (The ol’ line-in-the-sand, as it were?)

No fret, my Beloved … this won’t go into the house until I’ve de-yukked it of a few decades.

CUT TO THE CHASE

De-yukking it involved electric drills and wirebrushes, hammer and chisels, screwdrivers, garnet-paper, hours of patient effort, much coffee delivered by a loving Spouse who refused to enter the workshop whilst that … pong … hung in the air; and the final touch of several hours of patient circular motions with a small oilstone that removed all casting marks from the cooking surface and rendered it smooth (that was a pun by the way, a bit oblique and weak but nevertheless a pun). And for the purists:  I used rice bran oil instead of mineral oil for the stoning.

The final act in the drama was to wash it a few times in almost boiling soapy water with lashings of steel wool, followed by a prompt drying on a hot stove; and an all-over coating of oil. Cooking oil, thinly applied whilst still warm. (Keeps the rust demons at bay.)

I then conditioned that pan.

Over and over, from cold, from hot—with oil, with lard, with butter, with ghee and I only wish I’d thought to replace the empty coconut oil when I was in town.

PROOF OF THE PUDDING

Is in the eating, or so they say. I didn’t even try to eat the pan but I did fry an egg in it after all that effort.

It stuck, of course.

It stuck, but only in places. I felt encouraged.

I tried again, and again, each morning for a week and then one fine day my eggy slithered around in the pan like it was made of teflon only lightyears better. No, it didn’t stick at all. I found this encouraging—I could go back to my traditional two eggs on toast, and did. Full ahead all engines …

THE SECRET

Of the perfect fried egg is the perfect pan. This one cost me just six bucks from the Hospice charity shop and there’s now no way I’d consider selling it for anything less than six hundred. I’m in love.

I’ve been experimenting since and found that a more gentle hot heat gives a better egg without losing the crispy brownish frilly edges, and a good dash of chilli powder (before the egg sets) gives it a something that top chefs might envy. My secret ingredient is ever the pinch of granulated kelp powder but don’t tell The Spouse, she doesn’t like food that smells like old beach after a storm.

And now if I want scramblers I have to scramble them—they no longer come gratis, courtesy of Madame Teflon. Can’t win ’em all …

KISMET

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