Iron convulsed the world. Because the Celts made weapons with iron, they conquered everywhere they wanted. Iron kept its sharp edge bring the world out of the Bronze Age. When fashioned into farming implements, agricultural workers suddenly abounded with time. They ditched their stone and wooden plows and did more faster. England seized world supremacy when, using ample iron deposits, they perfected steel production and employed it in their industry and military. Iron ushered in the modern era.
Cooking with iron.
Then iron came to the kitchen. As in warfare, in farming and in industry, iron made things faster and easier for cooking. But was their a drawback?
This article explores the return to non-metallic ways of cooking. Did we lose flavor and healthfulness with our wholesale embrace of cooking with metal.
The revolution began for me years ago when a Mexican friend introduced me to salsa in lava stone mortar called molcajete (mol-ka-heh-tea). The difference between normal salsa and molcajete salsa was the latter produced a rush of a roller coaster. Wow, I thought. How is this possible?
This produced quite a sensation on my taste buds, but it didn’t clue me in fully to the difference that natural cooking utensils can produce in taste. That would come much later.
Cooking with stone.
Actually, it was the pizzerias that caught on to the superior fire power of cooking on hot stove ovens, like the ones used by the ancients. It turns out that the stone absorbs and distributes heat evening, baking a superior and crispy crust.
The pizzerias can install stone ovens which they heat with wood fire. The best boast white oak which heats huge stoves to 900 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best you can do at home is to buy a pizza stone, which should be pre-heated for best results.
Africans still use a grinding stone for grinding their spices and most of their cooking. Originally this was the only resource because there was no machinery. But as plastic, wood and metal implements became available, the majority still use the grinding stone because it brings out the authentic taste in food. The more its used, residual spice impregnates the stone and improves your next usage. They don’t buy spices pre-ground by metal machines and sold in plastic bottles like in the United States.
Serving in ceramic.
Then there are those who insist on serving in ceramic containers instead of plastic or metal. They don’t leach chemicals into your cooking and are environmentally friendly. A Mexican restaurant that aims for authenticity will serve its salsa in nothing less than a terracotta bowl. Pictured: Cactus Canyon Ceramics Spanish Terracotta from Amazon.
The Chinese take a dim view of eating with metal knife, fork and spoon. Inevitably, trace amounts of metal wind up in your mouth. The true Chinese flavor is ruined. The ancient Chinese cherished ivory chopsticks for quality and flavor. Of course, harvesting elephant tusks is not, rightly so, banned because it involves the cruel killing of elephants just for their tusks. Now, you can use plastic or wood chopsticks.
Then there’s bamboo. I always complain to my wife about water out of her stainless steel bottle because it makes the water taste metallic. She says she can’t taste it; I can’t help but taste it. Blech.
Just how much metal should we take in our food? Cooking with bamboo steamer is a step toward more natural cooking. It’s prehistoric and jungle-ish. It’s the way vegetables and fish and — above all — Chinese buns should be steamed. As Healthy Cookware points out, bamboo’s kitchen advantages are:
- environmentally friendly
- stain and odor resistant
- attractive appearance
- smooth finish
- safe with non-sticking cooking surfaces
The journey toward healthier, tastier cooking. Iron has taken over the modern kitchen, and we’re not going to completely turn back the revolution. What we can do is make strides towards natural. Don’t be surprised by the difference in flavor. I’m on the journey.