Today, and with a heavy heart, I finally brought my old Le Creuset 24cm enameled cast-iron frying pan, which I had bought in the mid-1980s in Haarlem, Holland, to the recycling station. You’ll find it, still in its full glory, in the second and third picture of this post. What happened?
Well, one day in October, I was busy pre-preparation-hot-frying some eggplant slices. I have been doing this many times: heat up the pan, and while doing so, brush all eggplant surfaces with oil. When the brushing is done, you slide the eggplant slices into the pretty hot pan, and cook them until done, on both sides. Simple, right? Oil-economical, and time-saving.
Toward the end of one eggplant worth of slices, I noticed that the inside of the pan had developed some five-or-so 0.3 inch-wide pockmarks. When looking somewhat closer, it transpired that the dark-grey heavy-duty enamel coating simply had popped off at those spots. Well, dang.
I launched a question about what to do on Ask MetaFilter, and people there advised me to get in touch with Le Creuset, since the warranty on their cast-iron products is life-long. As I found out, however, even the best of lives has to start some time, and thus the somewhat perfunctory message I received back from Le Creuset in Denmark (they’re the ones who deal with the whole of Scandinavia) read like this, and I quote:
Unfortunately the lifetime warranty startet first in 2000, so you fryingpan is not covered by the warranty. A lot has changed in the cast iron production and therefore is the lifetime warranty now in place.
(This is a good moment to advertise the translating business I’m having together with Robin, my partner. We’re covering English, German, Swedish and Dutch as source languages, and English and German as target languages)
Re-posting this on MetaFilter, a member laconically wrote “Sounds like an art project, then …” Well – no. I actually bit the bullet and bought a new pan. I even stuck to the same brand, and took a good while to research what I needed. 24cm-pans are not in the Creusetalogue any more, and on closer scrutiny, those measurements seem anyway to be there to confuse rather than inform. I bought a Creusetly-orange “26 cm” frying pan which, I ought to emphasize this, is absolutely gorgeous, albeit almost as big as the Cousances “28cm” Black Frier that I’ve been using for the big stuff since nobody remembers when.
No matter whether a “lot has changed” in the production of enameled cast iron or not, let’s summarize the important lesson here: even if you, in defiance of the user manual, decide to pre-heat an enameled cast-iron frying pan, keep an eye on it. Just because of a degree or two too many, a this-lasts-for-generations-type of kitchen gear can, I learned, go south beyond repair. In fact, with a less impatient disposition, I might have avoided the accident altogether – the Le Creusofessor who wrote the user’s booklet is adamant about not over-heating the pan. Why? Because it’s not necessary. Right.
The other lesson, then, is that experience – even decades-long experience – is a many-tentacled monster. What has worked all that time (almost every day) can, thanks to some unknown concurrence of unfavorable circumstances, suddenly not work at all. So, yes, I finally let my good old frying pan slide. Sorry, little fryer, I’ll miss you.