1905: Cast Iron Pan
|Cast Iron Pan|
Title text: If you want to evenly space them, it's easiest to alternate between the Arctic and Antarctic. Some people just go to the Arctic twice, near the equinoxes so the visits are almost 6 months apart, but it's not the same.
White Hat is discussing tips for maintaining Cast-iron cookware. Cast-iron cookware is well-loved and often promoted by cooking aficionados, but requires more effort and care to maintain than many other modern forms of cookware. This strip satirizes both the amount of effort involved, and the attitude of connoisseurs who look down on people who are unwilling to put in such effort. In typical xkcd fashion, the comic starts off somewhat realistic and escalates to absurdity.
White Hat tells the old myth (debunking articles: Lifehacker, The Kitchn, Serious Eats), that "you shouldn't wash your cast iron pan with soap since it destroys the seasoning", to Cueball. Seasoning is the process of treating the surface of a pan with a stick-resistant coating formed from polymerized fat and oil on the surface. Although it may not be a problem to use soap on your seasoned cast iron pan, you should still proceed with care with how you treat it.
White Hat starts to exaggerate; he tells him that if he ever as much as let soap touch the pan he should just throw it away, as that fact alone would prove that he would not be up to taking care of such a precious possession. This is a kind of scare tactic that might make Cueball believe this and anything else he tells him.
White Hat continues to give dubious advice to the point of absurdity, and Cueball becomes more and more wary of it.
His next word of advice is to apply moisturizer to the pan daily to keep it fresh. Cueball asks why and is told that it is to avoid the pan getting wrinkles. This implies that the pan would age like a human and get wrinkles. This is, of course, nonsense, but Cueball is not yet ready to dismiss White Hat's advice.
The final piece of advice is that twice a year Cueball should fill the pan with iron filings and leave it in direct sunlight for 24 hours. Both details are intended to be absurd. For one, neither the iron filings nor the sunlight appear to serve any actual purpose. Second, 24 continuous hours of direct sunlight is impossible to achieve in most places. North of the Arctic Circle (often shortened to simply "the Arctic") there will be at least one day a year where the sun does not set. While one might assume that a combined total of 24 hours over couple of days would be sufficient, White Hat implies that it's necessary to travel to very remote locations in very specific parts of the year to meet an extreme requirement. He further casts an unwillingness to meet this unreasonable standard as rendering a person unworthy of cast iron.
White Hat's strict tone "If you're not willing to travel to the Arctic, you don't deserve cast iron" might also suggest that cast iron is a special almost-legendary metal similar to Damascus steel or its fictional counterpart Valyrian steel and requires distant travel to obtain/maintain. This is likely a parody of the level of reverence cast iron cookware tends to receive in certain circles. Despite there being alternatives that are much easier to maintain, a significant number of cooks insist that cast iron has qualities that make it work the amount of effort involved.
In the title text, White Hat mentions that, if you wish to evenly space the two 24 hours of sun each year, it is easiest to alternate between the Arctic and the Antarctic regions. But this will mean that you have to travel a long distance at least once a year; even if you already lived inside one of the Polar Circles, you would have to travel to the other at least once a year.
It is implied that you do not have to space them evenly. As he mentions, some people just go to the Arctic twice a year near the equinoxes. However, according to White Hat, this is not the same, probably because it doesn't lead to an exact six-month spacing and the sun would stay very low on the horizon and the sunlight would not be as intense.
In order to accomplish this other scheme, it also means that they would actually have to go very close to the North Pole (or South Pole), as this is the only place with midnight sun around the equinoxes. So, in principle, this would be much more cumbersome than just going inside the southernmost part of the Arctic region at the summer solstice, and similarly the northernmost part of the Antarctic region at the northern hemisphere's winter solstice (which will be the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere).
When looking at it like this, it may seem that White Hat actually means that you should always go to the poles, rather than just to a place with 24 hours of sunlight, in order to have the sun high in the sky as well.
- [White Hat is holding a pan by the handle pointing to the frying surface as he shows it to Cueball.]
- White Hat: Never clean a cast-iron pan with soap. It destroys the seasoning.
- Cueball: Got it.
- [White Hat shift the pan to his right hand and lowers it to his side holding a finger up in front of Cueball.]
- White Hat: If you ever let soap touch the pan, throw it away. You're clearly not up to taking care of it.
- Cueball: Wow, okay.
- [In a frame-less panel White Hat has taken the pan back to the first hand holding on the the edge while he holds his other hand close to the frying surface.]
- White Hat: Apply moisturizer to the pan daily to keep it fresh.
- Cueball: ...Moisturizer?
- White Hat: Do you want it to get all wrinkly?
- Cueball: ...I...guess not.
- [White Hat has shifted the pan to the second hand again holding it by the handle away from Cueball, while pointing at Cueball with the other hand.]
- White Hat: Twice a year, fill the pan with iron filings and leave it in direct sunlight for 24 hours.
- Cueball: Wait. 24 hours of sun?
- White Hat: If you're not willing to travel to the Arctic, you don't deserve cast iron.
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