When This is Over I’m Getting on a Plane

Travel Tuesday, and I’m sitting here (just like a good chunk of the world) locked down in my basement during a global pandemic.

We (fortunately) banked partial refunds and credit for two sets of flights from twenty-twenty COVID cancellations.

This means that last year we didn’t get to go any further than we could drive in an afternoon.

It also means that sometime in the future I’ll need to book not just a trip, but a TRIP.

The Trip.

The Trip to Celebrate the End of the Pandemic Trip. TM

The first time of anything after a long stretch without can be nothing… or it can be everything.

For example, I sometimes give up coffee for a couple months (system purging) and my first cup after a break is always a personally special event. I treat myself to a great big Americano from a local café, and take a sit-down break to savour it. It is a moment of reward for an eon of patience and abstaining.

I’ve not been on a plane for well over a year, though I had multiple flights booked in my last calendar. It seems like it might be at least another before we can reasonably think of casual personal travel. That first flight after this unplanned break feels like it should be a treat, a great big amazing trip to savour.

A moment of reward for an eon of patience and abstaining.

Where would you go?

Why I Cook on Cast Iron (Part One)

Do you remember the first time you got the perfect sear?

I do.

We had come into a couple thousand dollars as a small inheritance. The decision had been made years prior that any windfalls like that would be rolled back into our house. It was simple: money from a family legacy transformed into value to our home.

Our choice then was to extend the gas line to our kitchen and replace the electric stove with a gas range.

We had been living the post-university student lifestyle for years at that point, but had been watching too much Food Network. The cheap aluminum frying pans were not cutting it anymore. They needed to be replaced, and I couldn’t help but notice that serious chefs didn’t cook gourmet meals over a glowing red coil burner.

Gas range installed and burning, life went on. We upgraded some of our cookware to stainless steel and expanded our repertoire of recipes. We cooked better, ate well, and thought the world of amazing food was our oyster.

At one point I had been curious about cast iron (for just a few months back when we still had the electric range) and I had fished a cheap pan from a discount rack at one of those surplus merch stores. On the electric range it was unimpressive. Couple with that the fact I had no clue about seasoning cast iron, and the whole thing was a succession of crusty messes. The pan got shoved to the back of a cupboard…

…until one particular experimental recipe we’d found specifically asked for a cast iron skillet on our new gas range.

The breaded chicken seared with a crisp, beautiful, crunch that I would have paid real money for at a nice restaurant. I had cooked it in my kitchen, with my limited skills, and I was hooked.

My cast iron mission had begun.

to be continued…

I Would Do Anything for Run (But I Won’t Do That)

Sunday. Run Day.

It’s lonely out there on the trails these days.

I laced up and logged a quick eight klick run through the locals this morning. The snowy paths were worn down with thousands of footprints. The crisp air was calm but dry. Stragglers from another universe were out walking their dogs.

For the last decade I have run almost every Sunday morning.

For the last year, company on those runs has been sporadic or limited at best.

The pandemic gave us a summer of cautious gatherings. This was followed by an autumn of wary runners. In turn, that was followed by a strict lockdown with little tolerance for mixed company.

So I run alone lately.

Others bend the rules. Only a little, true. But bending is bending.

Running solo is lonely, with just the trail, your thoughts, and maybe some tunes. Eight klicks is well under an hour of action, but as the year presses on and the prospect of actually training kicks into full gear, those eight klicks are going to need to stretch to ten … fifteen … then over twenty. Twenty klicks is an easy two hour run.

Two hours of solo running is lonely.

So lonely.

And my motivation is fueled by good company.

But bending is bending.

When Good Iron Goes Bad

My beloved twenty inch cast iron grill pan developed an ugly blemish over the autumn months.

A scar. A scab. A patch of failing seasoning crusted, bubbled and flaked off leaving a rough spot the size of a medium pancake on the middle edge of an otherwise awesomely seasoned piece.

This isn’t beauty-shaming. A good quarter of the grill was rendered useless for cooking by a spot of flaking seasoning.

I worked around it. At first.

Then I ignored it.

But it only got worse.

Three years ago I had cleaned this particular pan down to bare iron. I ran it through the deep cleaning cycle of the oven and burned off all of the seasoning. It was a mess. It took some serious love in the backyard and four rounds of reseasoning love to get it back into service as our Saturday pancake grill.

But a January mid-winter in mid-Canada is neither the time nor the place to strip a pan to bare iron.

Solution? Elbow grease, some steel wool, and an hour of grinding the blistering patch of dead seasoning into a smooth, bare spot. Then three rounds of hot-oven-baking-on some fresh carbon layers.

The results were successfully tested this morning… and those pancakes were delicious.