It appears that modern humans first appeared around 200,000 years ago, but record keeping didn’t begin until around 6,000 years ago. That means that about 97% of human history has been lost.
Soon the man learned that his body needed food and drink to survive. He got tired of eating raw meat, leaves and grass, so he told his wife or partner to start cooking his food over the fire.
The man would begin by using a stick stuck into the meat to roast it halfway over the flames of his fire. This was a trial and error method. The man found out very quickly if he liked his meat rare, medium well, well done, or burnt.
Sometimes the stones were preheated to keep food warm and were even used to form a primitive type of oven. Some stone ovens were built above ground, while others were large pits dug into the ground and lined with stones. The pits were then filled with embers and ash. The food was wrapped in wet leaves, placed on the coals, and covered with earth. This method allowed large pieces of meat to be cooked slowly and evenly. The meat was tastier and digested better. Even during our last century, this method of cooking pigs to make a good roast barbecue was still around.
The next advance in cooking was cooking wet or boiled in water. Vegetables and root vegetables were cooked in this way. Even vessels made of bark, wood, or animal skins could be used to boil food as long as there was water in the vessel. Later vessels were made of clay or ceramic.
Clay pottery was used for many years until a type of metal was invented. These pots and pans made of copper, tin or cast iron were highly prized and passed down through the generations to be used over and over again.
Although some of our ancestors came to this country with only their shirts on, many brought essential items like wooden bowls and metal pots.
As people moved from east to west or north to south in our country, many of the ceramic vessels were broken and thus cast iron pots and pans were the mainstay of the pioneers.
Just like our ancestors’ weapons had to be cleaned and oiled, so did their cast iron pots and pans. To prevent cast iron pots and pans from rusting, they had to be what people call seasoned. This was done by washing the pots, drying them, and then cleaning them with bear or pig fat. Occasionally this empty pot was heated over coals after seasoning to maintain an even cooking surface within the pot.
As technology progressed, aluminum pots and pans came on the scene alongside gas and electric stoves.
Nowadays man has invented all kinds of materials for our cookware to cook better and faster but for me there is nothing better than a well seasoned cast iron skillet for cooking.
To summarize this column, I’ll just ask this question: Would you rather eat pinto beans cooked in an aluminum pot on an electric stove or simmered over a wood flame in an old cast-iron pot?
JA Bolton is the author of “Just Passing Time”, co-author of “Just Passing Time Together”, Southern Fried: Down-Home Stories, and just published his new book “Sit-A-Spell”, which can be purchased on Amazon. Contact him at [email protected]