Jan 10, 2021

In a previous post, I illustrated how I cleaned and reseasoned an antique cast iron popover pan. This was my first attempt, and my seasoning technique was somewhat haphazard because I couldn’t find consistent, science-based advice. I used a combination of organic avocado oil and strained drippings from organic bacon. This worked pretty well on the popover pan, which doesn’t have a polished surface. But the smooth inner surface of a skillet showed an unevenness of color and texture, and the seasoning wasn’t hard enough. It was too easily marred by cooking utensils or scraping against oven racks.

I wanted to understand the chemistry behind seasoning so I’d know how to fix this, but there is nothing that addresses this issue directly. A Web page on cast iron posted by someone similarly obsessed with the science gave me two crucial clues, the phrases “polymerized fat” and “drying oil”. From there I was able to find the relevant scientific literature and put the pieces together.

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William Hogarth’s Satire on False Perspective, engraved by Luke Sullivan, offers an Escher-like array of impossible lines and vanishing points: a man lights his pipe from a distant candle; a flock of sheep grow bigger as they recede round a corner; a foreground flag disappears behind a distant tree, and many more.

These multiple visual tricks are all jokes to convince the viewer of the necessity of reading and understanding Hogarth’s friend Joshua Kirby’s book, Dr. Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective Made Easy, Both in Theory and Practice for which Hogarth’s image acted as frontispiece.

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