Several months ago, I purchased an iron frypan made in France by deBuyer Industries which has been in business for 180 years. It arrived, gleaming silver and very heavy in the hand, and I immediately felt the pan bestowed upon me certain, secret cooking skills possessed by experienced French chefs.
I followed the instructions for seasoning the pan before I seared chicken thighs during its inaugural use. I was impressed with how the pan browned the chicken, although the meat stuck a bit and needed to be nudged with a spatula. I deglazed the stuck bits left in the pan with hot water, re-seasoned the pan with oil over heat, and stored it away.
Over the course of many weeks, I have used the pan for all kinds of dishes: cooking eggs, veggies, and searing meat before placing it in the oven for a slow roast. With each use, the pan has become darker and darker, developing a deep, brown hue.
The pan has developed a matured seasoning over time as well and given it an entirely new personality and cooking power. Dishes now glide out of the pan without effort, while taking on a new, subtle flavor and depth.
Last weekend, I decided to try making crab cakes in the pan. I wasn’t sure how they’d fare as my recipe calls for very little “glue” (eggs/breadcrumbs), typically causing the crab cakes to nearly fall apart when cooking.
I made the cakes, heated the pan with a bit of olive oil, and placed each in the pan. The pan took it from there, and as if by magic, perfectly browned the cakes while keeping them intact. The flavor was beyond anything I had experienced before — each ingredient (crab, nutmeg, ginger, clove, cinnamon, onion, paprika, and mustard) was given time on the palate’s stage and was enveloped in a crunchy, crusty casing.
As I stood admiring and tasting my creations, I knew that the crab cakes would have had an entirely different composition, flavor, and quality if I had made them in the pan several months ago. It was the depth of seasoning that made all the difference.
I began thinking about my creativity and work — my writing, content creation, coaching, and speaking — viewed through the lens of seasoning. I officially began my creativity journey in 2006 (unofficially at birth), and in the years since, I have seasoned my work with all kinds of professional, educational, and life experiences.
I have launched businesses and nonprofits, traveled the world, gotten married and divorced, given birth and raised three children (and then helped each leave the nest), obtained two degrees and numerous certifications, fallen in and out of love, built and lost a house, deeply grieved the death of my father, succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and failed spectacularly, reclaimed my inner artist, and embraced vulnerability over separation.
Each experience has brought me here, adding depth and color to my life and work, and as a result, has brought an element to my creativity I could not force. Viewed through this lens, then, I embrace ALL of those life moments — including when I have skinned my knees, sunk into a chair in despair, or faced loss so great I feared my heart would never mend.
Our creativity — the edges of whom we are — is as informed and enhanced by our Hero’s Journey into the unknown as it further shapes and seasons it.
If we are to create greatly, then, we must live greatly.