Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Old School Tools And Memories

I don't know about you, but I tend to get stuck in a rut and stagnate. The demands of the daily grind sap all my focus and energy. As a result, expanding boundaries, and trying new things gets neglected.  Somewhere along the way, my idea of thrift stores had been "set", and in my daily dash to maintain the status quo, I failed to consider that my perceptions about them could be wrong. My "ruts" can rival the expanse of canyons, and it takes quite a stimulus for me to think of
digging out.  

My history with thrift stores had been a bad one. At the behest of a friend, I went into one…once. "Join me.", she said. "It will be fun.' she said.  That statement could not have been more wrong. My experience was perfectly awful! The store was chaotic. Merchandise of any and all types was strewn about so randomly, that I daresay even the likes of Einstein wouldn't be able to discern a pattern in it. I felt confused, claustrophobic, panicked. I fled, vowing never to go back to a second hand store again.

So, how on earth did I become I thrift shop-aholic? Remember that I said it takes a big stimulus to make me consider  leaving my comfort zone? In 2012, hubby and I decided to downsize and move into a smaller home. We moved BEFORE selling the first home. For  6 months we made two house payments.  Money was tight! That was a rut busting catalyst. Hounded by the stress of budgeting two mortgage payments, I had to find a way to cut expenses. So, I ventured into what I considered to be a circle of hell Dante neglected to mention in the 'Inferno'.  With the most martyr-like countenance I could muster, I went into (GASP!) a thrift store. 


I crossed the threshold, and felt sheer panic. But unlike my prior attempt,  budgetary realities barred me from fleeing. Trapped, I had to deal with the panic and make this work. I procured a cart and took safe haven on the perimeter to could get the "lay of the land".  I spotted a group of very loud, energetic children playing a raucous game of tag. At that time I believed myself to be in purgatory. My path was dictated by desperate attempts to avoid the tag playing kids. They advanced, I retreated. They zigged, I zagged. This spastic choreography eventually brought me to a quieter corner of the store. There, I noticed a woman whose cart  overflowed with amazing finds! Were we in the same store??? I looked about and saw nothing. But she reached into the heaps and drew forth treasure! How did she manage this? What manner of magic did she possess?  I decided to study her, and copy her technique. Unbeknownst to this master shopper, she had acquired an apprentice! Methodically, she searched the shelves from one end to the other, shuffling everything around. Her method obviously worked, so I adopted her system and was quickly rewarded. I found…(drum roll please)  a set of iron skillets!

iron skillets from Goodwill

Three iron skillets for $9! I could hardly believe my luck! Understand that I knew nothing about iron cookware at the time. I only knew that iron was a preferred cookware of many great cooks…. my grandmother being one. I knew I'd found a great deal. But the deal wasn't the only bonus. Holding the skillets made me feel nostalgic. Like the fabled magic carpet, memories transported me back to a time I hadn't thought of in ages. Mealtime with my grandparents. Perfect fried chicken, fried okra, cornbread and more. We ate in their small kitchen nook where we had a view of the garden my grandfather loved to tend. Supper time was special back then. Not rushed like today, and certainly NEVER eaten while watching TV.  Meals were sustenance yes, but more importantly, eating together was family time.  We shared laughs, talked about our hopes, dreams. and everything in-between.  My grandparents made sure mealtime was a time set aside for us to be together.  My grandmother's iron cookware was a key component in all of her meal prep. and therefore a part of my memories. I hadn't reflected on those childhood years in quite sometime. But there, amongst the wild children, and piles of random stuff, I'd found something that built a bridge between the adult me, and the child me. Quite unexpectedly, these iron skillets helped me feel a stronger connection to the past.
The underside of the large skillet. 

I was yanked from my reverie when two of the energetic children ran right into me. Apparently, the game of tag had been going strong while I'd been revisiting those Mississippi summers in my mind. An angry mother came around the corner to gather the kids, and I realized that was the perfect time to conclude my shopping. I'd had my first victory in the thrift store arena! The iron skillets were my big turning point. Just like that, I was a full fledged thrift shop-aholic.

Two years later, I am an avid thrift store shopper. Second-hand things  come with mystery, surprise AND an affordable price! That's a win, win, win in my book. I enjoy using these 'old school' tools like my grandparents did. With each use, I am reminded of the wonderful memories I have of them, and decades later, I appreciate my grandparents all the more.  No matter how many great finds I come across, these will be extra special to me. For they mark the day I learned to find treasures among the ordinary.


As you can see in the picture, they weren't well seasoned. I brought the goods home and commenced to researching how one goes about seasoning a skillet.

Just beginning.

I read on one site that the best way to season iron cookware is to use it. So I cooked bacon and saved the grease for future seasoning.

In progress----

Almost a year later. I'm very pleased with how this one has seasoned. And I love it all the more since I carefully brought the skillet to this state.

And below--some delicious homemade cornbread in my iron skillet…like Grandam used to make.


  1. You posted this 10 days ago! How did I miss it? It was probably around the time we were talking about iron skillet rescue. Speaking of which, I still have not tackled trying to revive the one that I rusted. But I will. I want some of that cornbread - it looks scrumptious!

  2. I think this got posted at a very hectic time. And, even though I'm not the greatest cook, the cornbread was delicious! Had it with some collard greens. Not like Grandma's, but still very good, if I do say so myself.