As interest continues to grow nationwide in all things Southern food — restaurants, chefs, cookbooks — there’s a “natural curiosity” about the humble yet celebrated cast-iron skillet, says Virginia Willis, the Atlanta-based authority on the region’s cooking. The cast-iron skillet’s virtues, and utility, can’t be underestimated, in her view.
“If you have a cast-iron skillet, you can make so many things in it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” says Willis, author of Basic to Brilliant Y’all (Ten Speed, $35). “It’s a roasting pan. It’s a baking dish. It’s a skillet.”
So symbolic is the cast-iron skillet in the South that Paul and Angela Knipple chose to title their new book after it: The World in a Skillet: A Food Lover’s Tour of the New American South (University of North Carolina, $35). The book tells the stories of people from around the world who have settled in the South and are helping to change how the region’s food is defined. Although not every recipe calls for a skillet, each has “the same sense of enduring heritage and family,” according to the authors.