The Cambrian

Student Essay: It's just a wok

Alfonso Hernandez
Alfonso Hernandez PHOTO BY ASHLYN SNOW

Editor’s note: Starting last week and continuing through June 3, The Cambrian will include an essay written by a Coast Union High School senior as part of teacher Mary Ann Paul’s college prep senior English class. The assignment, inspired by an Andy Rooney piece on CBS’s “60 Minutes” news magazine dealing with how an object was “only a plate,” was to write an informal essay about sentimental, emotional ties to a material object.

Between my mother and me, we have numerous pots and pans. Although my mother loves cooking, just as I do, I notice a difference in the way we take care of our pans. My mother is able to burn through a pan and when it’s old, she just gets rid of it without a second thought. Then she gets a new pan, and the vicious cycle starts over again.

I, on the other hand, will push pans farther than their limits and even continue to use them when their nonstick coating has worn off. I believe that just because a pan is old, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to get a new one. My grandfather confirms my idea by telling me that the older a pan gets, the better it is; the more a pan is used, the more seasoned it becomes, which makes the food taste better.

While visiting Chinatown in San Francisco, I purchased a wok, which is a Chinese pan. I was excited about my investment because I knew this wok would be in my possession for a long time. And I hope you know that this wok wasn’t just a purchase I made on a whim; I made sure that it was actually hand-hammered from a metal worker from China. I wanted my new addition to my kitchen collection to be authentic because I thought about how neat it is that the woks we use today were also used thousands of years ago in China.

When I finally brought my wok home, the hard work began. Before using it, I had to scrub the waxy film off, which had protected it on its journey from China to the U.S. The process of cleaning my wok took a whopping eight hours, but that time spent was well worth it. Then I had to coat the wok with cooking oil and bake it for an hour to reach its perfect bronzed color.

Cooking with the wok is different from cooking with a regular pan. This amazing wok is able to cook a meal in less than a minute with the use of high heat and a light oil. When the fresh vegetables or meat hit the hot wok, it creates a glorious sound that is rivaled by no other. Plus, with the aroma of the onions and garlic filling the room, it leaves an intoxicating scent, which pleases my senses.

Inevitably, time will wear on the wok and it will lose its bronzed color and blacken with age, but that’s no reason to get rid of it. When woks hit the black color, they are at their peak, being even more perfect and seasoned, so I am eager to get my wok to that stage in its life.

When people come over and say it’s a nice pan, I always correct them and say, “It’s not just a pan — it’s a wok.”