Keeping Happy at Home – Lynn Nottage Cast-Iron Skillet


Elle Decor

For our new series “Objects of Affection,” ELLE Decor is asking designers and others from an array of fields to tell us about an item in their personal space that is bringing them comfort and solace as they stay home in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. (And here’s what’s keeping the ELLE Decor team happy at home.)

Playwright Lynn Nottage isn’t shy about delving into difficult and tumultuous topics. She won her first Pulitzer Prize in the drama category in 2009 for her play Ruined, which follows a group of women trying to survive in a small town in the Republic of Congo against the backdrop of civil war. And her 2015 work Sweat, which earned her a second Pulitzer Prize, focuses on the blue-collar residents of Reading, Pennsylvania, who are struggling with job losses and economic hardships that inflame the neighborhood’s underlying racial tensions. This spring, Nottage was set to premiere a Lincoln Center Theater operatic imagining of her 2003 play Intimate Apparel, about an early-20th-century seamstress in New York City. As the production has been put on hold until the fall, Nottage is staying home in her Brooklyn house, where she is cooking up a storm with a beloved family heirloom.

My Grandmother’s Cast-Iron Skillet

“Chicken-and-leek potpie, jerk fried mahi-mahi, cauliflower-and-cheese omelet, and chicken under a brick: These are just a few of the tasty meals my family and I have conjured in my grandmother’s cast-iron skillet during this pandemic. Food has become our organizing principle and our go-to place for comfort and sustenance, and as a result, my grandmother’s skillet is now the unlikely center of our lives. As a child, I used to sit in my grandmother’s tiny, dimly lit kitchen and watch her flour and meticulously deep-fry chicken, okra, and catfish in the cast-iron pan—a treat she reserved for my overnight visits to her home. When she died, the pan was one of the few things I coveted and inherited from her Harlem flat. While cooking, I often think about the more than 90 years of seasoning that infuse the skillet with history and flavor. In the midst of this moment of uncertainty and heightened anxiety, I savor this precious connection to my past and imagine that some of my grandmother’s love, spices, and healing energy still linger and enliven anything placed in her cast-iron skillet.” —Lynn Nottage, playwright