There was an article in the local newspaper not long ago about sentimental kitchen items. Everyone one of us has something in our kitchen that is close to our hearts. Our first mixing bowl, an old whisk that came from a distant aunt, a cookie recipe that has been passed down. The kitchen is not only the heart of our homes, but the heart of our being. When you throw a gathering, most people end up congregating in the kitchen at some point.

When the paper posed the question "what kitchen item do you own that is near and dear to your heart?" I had to share mine. I have a black iron skillet that has been passed down from my Grandmother. She bought it back in the late 30's from a housewares salesman. (Saying that conjures up visions of a door to door salesman - not so) There was a wooden horse drawn wagon that visited all the farms in our rural southern county. My grandmother was an eighteen year old newlywed when she decided she needed that 10" cast iron frying pan.

Through the years it has been a part of meal preparation a family of nine and then later seventeen grandchildren, of which I am the oldest. Maybe that is why I was lucky enough to inherit this very special item. When I married my husband, he also brought with an iron skillet. It was about half the weight of mine, without the rough, black, bumpy exterior. The iron made today is obviously greatly inferior to earlier cookware.

My iron skillet means so much to me, not because it makes the best cornbread, but because it symbolizes the woman it belonged to. My Grandmother was strong, to the point of withstanding more then anyone should in a lifetime. She had a purpose, to lead and guide so many, which she did. She was seasoned. Because of her wisdom and experience, she was able to sprinkle words of wisdom when needed (some of those words were spicy and had quite a kick, but it's what we needed to hear).

Whenever I use this wonderful pan, I get a warm feeling inside, one that convinces me that I can be that strong, that I can pass down advice and lessons through the generations that will have a lasting effect on those that I love.

So there was I was, picture and all, proudly holding my Nanny's iron skillet. I don't cook as much as I once did, and all our kids and family are strown all over the world. There is a part of me that wonders if I start using that old skillet once again, would that somehow summon the family to gather as it once did?

Chances are it will be passed down from me to my daughter. I hope at that time she knows that not just cornbread comes from that pan, but that strength and encouragement does as well and that seems to come from the most unexpected places.


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