Sustainable All

If you asked me for my political position on where the world should be going, I’d tell you. After all, it’s never great to write these things down, particularly on a public website where you are trying to foster a positive, happy vibe without some means to avoid the wrath of the countless people who disagree with you.

Instead, I’ll write about why I like cast iron so much.

What do you think the world will be like 25 years in the future?

We live in a disposable world, don’t we?

We’re arguing over single-use plastics — bags, straws, and wraps — as if the question is one of convenience trumping trash. In reality, it is a question of sustainability.

Everything we do shifts energy. Everything we do increases the general entropy of the universe. These are just laws of physics, not even opinion.

The opinion comes into play when we ask what the accumulated effects of billions of people shifting around energy and increasing universal entropy mean for this tiny ball of dirt and water and air upon which every one of us are bound past, present and future.

For as much as I love great cooking and hefty cookware, there is a often said but generally understated benefit to cast iron: it lasts forever.

The thing is that a lot of things last forever. That plastic straw you sipped your cola through for fifteen minutes will last in the ground as waste effectively forever. Well, okay, sure, ten thousand years is not actually forever, but it’s a heckuva long time on a human scale.

On the other hand that plastic straw is not usable forever. It’s usable for a few weeks under ideal circumstances, if you saved it and washed it and took care with it. But ninety-nine percent of the time a plastic straw lasts forever but is usable for fifteen minutes.

Cast iron pans last forever, but more importantly the are usable for a very long time. Generations in many cases. We can confidently say that any well-made cast iron pan is usable for good hundred or so years because we have examples of collector pans that date back easily as far back as cast iron pans were commonly manufactured. Yes, they take energy to cast and energy to mine iron from the ground and energy to move around the supply chain to get into your kitchen, but over the usable life of a pan — which can be very long — it even out, and likely even wins out.

On the other hand, there are much less sustainable ways to fry an egg.

In the next twenty-five years, say by the mid-40s, I really think we’re either going to need to have our collective mind firmly wrapped around the kinds of choices we make about disposable versus sustainable objects.

Do we drink from a straw or do we slurp from a cup? Do we love our non-stick Teflonā„¢ or do we cook on cast iron? Do we keep the species alive for a few more hundred years, or do we turn the Earth into an unlivable wasteland?

I think that decision, however we manage to get there — by consensus, force, or inevitability — will dramatically shift what the world in twenty five years looks and feels like.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.

Friday Frights: Cast Iron Versus Magic

There are countless great arguments to switch to cooking with cast iron, but a socio-political one was outlined recently by the HBO Comedy show, Last Week Tonight, as they profiled a report on the effects to both our health and the environment from the types of chemicals used to make other non-stick frying pans.

You can watch the twenty-minute clip embedded below … which if you are unfamiliar with the show is a late-night, no-holds-barred news-comedy program. (And a language/political-bend warning for those with sensitive minds.)

To sum up ( if the clip doesn’t play in your part of the world) a group of chemicals called PFAs have been used to make all sorts of modern products since the 1950s. While there have been countless conveniences from these products, there have also been many environmental and human health problems that have been identified from the manufacture or disposal of things containing those chemicals.

One of the big, well known products is Teflonā„¢ which could be considered the non-stick alternative to a well-seasoned cast iron pan.

But where cast iron becomes non-stick through seasoning, a process that can be done at home and involves the polymerization of food-safe oils into a thin, slick surface on top of the raw iron, chemical non-stick coatings are factory applied and involve typical sorts of industrial side effects.

Of course, manufacturing cast iron cookware is undeniably a resource intensive effort, too. Mining, refining, extreme heat, and casting, not to mention the costs of shipping heavy pieces of cookware around the world.

Neither of these are perfect.

But as the scales weigh out the pros and cons, cast iron versus coated non-stick pans, factoring in things like longevity of the cookware itself, sustainability of the manufacturing process, impacts to our well-being and our world, and the accumulation of chemical debt that is incurred by the mass production and disposal rates of both these options, I more and more feel like those scales are tilting out towards cast iron.

Short: Pour Over Coffee

Maybe it was obvious, but those little coffee pods had their moment… and that moment has passed.

At least, it has for me…

And maybe it’s also obvious, but picking up a cheap little pour over cone (for roughly half the cost of a box of pods) has me making my afternoon cup in a much different way lately.

Sure, it takes a few more minutes and has a little bit more cleanup, but the results are fantastic.

I’m gonna need to dig in and write an article on this topic… when I have a bit more to say on my experience ditching the single-serve machine and migrating to something a little more manual.