Today I learned about a woman who, well, spends too much money. I'm often wishing not to judge others on how they spend, but after learning about this woman, I thought, "Gee, she should meet my mother. They might cancel one another out." Nothing too lavish mind you, but one habit of hers is to buy lots of books. Paperbacks, yes, but they must arrive in pristine condition. She places each book lovingly on her shelf, but instead of reading it, it's there for "safe keeping." She then goes to the library, or borrows the same book, and reads that copy. Why? She can't stand to think that her pristine copies might have creases in the binding. So, with someone who is obviously in some debt, who no doubt borrows more than her share from her poor husband's wallet, listen to how she outfits her kitchens. That's right, as a married couple, they've moved three times. And each time, she's discarded her old "kitchen ware" for... new. Why? It has to match the new decor, of course. Vegetable peelers, trivets, some pots and pans, the coffee maker, the whole lot. Everything in drawers and cabinets got dumped. New home, new kitchen stuff. Might be nice. This is where it clicked. "Mom!" My mother some years ago, after moving in their new home south of here, re-did the kitchen. New cabinets, new countertops, new stove, oven, dishwasher--the works. They even pained the walls a new color. Needless to say, this renovation cost my parents good money. Yet, when I was last there, I couldn't believe my eyes. After spending thousands on the new kitchen (including the nice floor), my mom still had kitchen ware that was... sadly in disrepair. Brand new, silent dish washer, yes. Small knives with no sharp blades, dirty old plastic spoons for mixing, and rusted carving knives? Check. I was quite shocked, really, to find the kitchen utencils we grew up with using in the 1980s and 90s in the their kitchen. Still. They had worn themselves out years ago, but my mom kept it all, not replacing one iota of the lot. But she did acquire a few new things. My dad got her an Emeril-brand cast iron skillet. Since my mom studied chemistry (both in school and professionally), I figured she knew what was in cast iron. Iron. Okay, but what's special about "iron?" That's right, it rusts. This is where the analogy between the free-spending woman and my mom breaks apart. The bottom line, my mom didn't spend enough when she should have; this woman on the other hand, couldn't help herself. One lived a life too excessive, the other, too frugal. But the pan story, while having nothing to do with this comparison, came to mind as I was discussing the similarities with my good friend. "Remember that pan?" "Sure do!" My mom brought it out to cook in, and I remarked how the side was... rusty. "Why is that pan rusty?" I asked. "It's Emeril's. Your father bought it, I hate it. It's heavy, and it is rusty. I think after this I'm going to throw it out." My mom was willing to throw away a perfectly fine cast iron pan for no good reason. But she wouldn't throw away a $5 vegetable peeler that had run dull in the 90s. "Why?" "It's rusted, look at this..." "It's iron. You didn't wash it in water, did you?" "Did I wash it in water?!" she almost yelled, sounding incredulous. "Of course I washed it in water, what you have we wash it in?" "You don't wash cast iron. You season the pan with oil, and scrub it out with salt after each use. Except maybe for one initial washing, followed by a heating in the oven, it should never come into contact with water." "That's rubbish, I always washed my cast iron in water." "And it didn't rust?" "Never." My mom must have been going crazy. Of course, cast iron would rust. I asked some more, probing her: "So... what are you afraid of, by not washing it?" "It'd be filthy! You have to cook in a clean pot." "Clean? Like... no bacteria clean?" "Yes, no bacteria. I even use anti-bacterial soap." "Ok.. what do you think happens to this "bacteria" (which I emphasized by making those curly quotes with my fingers) when the pan is sitting on the hot stove, with, let's say, 300 degree oil in it?" "I don't know, you tell me." "There's none there. It died long ago. The pan gets hot, the bad stuff, if there were any, is gone." "I don't believe it." "Come on! It's iron. It's going to rust!" "Well, that doesn't explain why it's so god-awful heavy." "It's cast iron, all cast iron is god-awful heavy, that's why people buy it. It lasts and lasts. It holds its heat. It's a good pan," I said, now loud and speaking quickly. She looked at me like I was crazy. "This pan stinks. Look at it! It's rusted on the side!" Maybe that was the spend-thrift's problem. Everything was rusting. It sure worked for my mom. Incidentally, after that dinner, she decided not to throw the pan away. But she was washing it in soapy water.