In this age of nonstick cookware, you might think a cast iron frying pan belongs in the recycle bin…but you would be incredibly wrong. Teflon and other non-stick coatings have been linked to low birth weight in infants, bladder, kidney and testicular cancers, and other health issues. The chemical in non-stick coatings, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is a carcinogen that is released from non-stick coatings at high temperatures. The CDC estimates that 95% of U.S. population has PFOA in their bloodstream, and has no idea how long it takes to process out of the human body.
Matt Cavallaro knows all this, but that’s not why he wants to make great cast iron cookware; he’s an artist with a strong sense of tradition and history, and a good grasp of form and functionality. An industrial designer by trade, and a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Cavallaro decided to incorporate his love of history, tradition, the outdoors and cooking, into his new company, Nest Homeware. The first products offered in his housewares line are the “Stick Pans,” a cleverly designed set of cast iron pots and pans for modern, healthy living.
The name is an intentional pun; Cavallaro incorporated a sense of humor into the naming of his cookware because “a lot of people think that anything that’s not Teflon is inherently sticky, but that’s not true.”
The cooking surfaces of the Stick pans are ground smooth in the traditional manner of quality, cast iron cookware, “when you would buy one pan to last you the rest of your life,” Cavallaro says. This process makes for better heat distribution, as well as a better seasoned surface. But there are many more benefits to using cast iron that just those two.
Quality cast iron has the ability to go from stove top, to oven, and to table. The density of the iron means you don’t lose heat quickly, and maintain a constant cooking temperature with little fluctuation. Iron is a natural material with no toxic fumes or outgassing, and has an amazingly long lifespan that can span more than 60 years - think about that the next time you scratch your Teflon pan and expose the aluminum underneath. A good set of cast iron pots and pans will outlive any other cooking item in your kitchen, won’t ruin your health, and won’t fill landfills when scratched. The ecological and health benefits are important, but Cavallaro sees important social benefits as well.
“Nest [Homeware] is about building a home. Home can be a lot of different things to different people, but the idea of home for me really centers around sharing a warm meal, with people I love,” Cavallaro states. “It’s not just eating. It’s eating together. It’s telling stories. It’s strengthening your family.”
“I also love the idea of making ‘artifacts’ - objects that will be around till long after we're gone (without the negative connotation that comes with plastic objects),” Cavallaro added. “Iron is a primal, ancient material, but it can be beautiful, elegant, and refined at the same time. There's a [metaphorical and physical] weight and responsibility attached to it, to make a product that's worthy of being around forever. That's really humbling to me, and also incredibly exciting.”
Making good cast iron requires foundry access, quality iron, developing prototype models, and money. Cavallaro has all of those things thanks to the Nest Homeware Kickstarter campaign he launched on November 23rd, 2013. Kickstarter backers will get pledge gifts ranging from cast iron candlesticks and napkin rings, to the Stick cookware and a hand crafted dining room table, all of which are part of the Nest Homeware product line. The Kickstarter campaign closes on December 18, 2013, which is still enough time for some items to be shipped in time for Christmas (just make sure your stocking is securely hung by the chimney with care).
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