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Perl is my cast iron pan

by talexb (Canon)
on Feb 22, 2013 at 04:34 UTC ( #1020064=perlmeditation: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

I cooked some seasoned chicken breasts tonight for supper using my cast iron pan. First I turned the oven up to 300F (still old units for some things, even in a country that's been metric for about 30 years), then I put the cast iron pan on medium heat and let it warm.

Once the pan was ready, with the oven still heating, I seared the chicken two minutes per side, keeping a lid on the pan, then popped it into the oven, and started cooking rice and beans on the stove.

The chicken was ready when the rice was, about half an hour later, and I was pleased to see that it had stayed nice and moist. The meal was delicious.

Four hours after having cooked supper, I went back to the pan and washed it. Now, you never use soap on a cast iron pan -- that's a no-no -- because cast iron is slightly porous. It retains a little fat, and naturally provides a non-stick surface (or, mostly non-stick, anyways). Clean-up is a little scrub with my metal Kurly Kate and some water, then a bit of a dry with a cloth. I re-season this pan once in a while, but after 25 years use, it doesn't need it much. It's a well-used, well-loved pan, and one of my favourites.

Sort of like how Perl's been my favourite for some time -- about 15 years ago I was starting to tinker around with scripting languages because I was getting tired of writing C programs to open files, read arguments from the command line, do the usual munging of data. I found Perl after a little noodling with awk. Perl does have its quirks, both in the language and in the community. But treat both right, and you'll be well served for years and years.

So when I see some commercial on TV for a new kitchen appliance (and some of the American commercials are most comical, as seen by these Canadian eyes), I smile, just as it amuses me to read SlashDot's talk about how use in Perl is declining.

No, it's not the latest, coolest, shiniest thing, but there are many smart, hard-working people on the job behind Perl (the language and the community). And like my cast iron pan, it's going to be around, useful as ever, for a long time to come.

Alex / talexb / Toronto

"Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

Comment on Perl is my cast iron pan
Re: Perl is my cast iron pan
by igelkott (Curate) on Feb 22, 2013 at 08:16 UTC

    I like this analogy because I think of the other languages I know to be like Teflon. Sure, they are good too and I'll use them when needed but I often miss the general utility and toughness of Perl.

    They are all just tools but it sure beats frying with your bare hands.

      And, besides, the Teflon scratches (one incautious use of (gasp!) a metal stirring device; it gradually thins unless each time it's washed, it's treated like fine crystal; and thus, my "cast iron pans" continue to see regular and frequent use... despite the newfangled (supposed) improved options.

      Big + + to parent and grandparent nodes.


      If you didn't program your executable by toggling in binary, it wasn't really programming!

Re: Perl is my cast iron pan
by perl514 (Pilgrim) on Feb 22, 2013 at 08:46 UTC

      Thanks -- I read that article last week some time; his experience was similar to mine.

      BTW, your link to the Dr. Dobb's article is broken -- you probably need to enclose it in square brackets.

      Alex / talexb / Toronto

      "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

Re: Perl is my cast iron pan
by topher (Scribe) on Feb 26, 2013 at 03:58 UTC

    I love this analogy (almost as much as I love my cast iron pans). There's just so many ways his analogy works; off the top of my head:

    • Both are old-fashioned
    • Both are dependable
    • Both look a little dingy and beat-up
    • Both are heavy-duty work horses
    • Both have some quirks and require a little TLC
    • Both are commonly inherited
    • Both are "outdated" technology
    • Both are go-to tools for Pros in the trenches
    • Both are incredibly flexible tools
    • Both can handle serious heat
    • Both can burn you if you don't learn proper handling
    • Both have been declared dead in favor of fancy new replacements
    • Both are still in heavy use, if not in high visibility
    • Both can be used as a weapon in a pinch
    • Both have loyal fans who understand their impressive strengths
    • Both bring a big ol' smile to my face

    I'm going to have to apologize in advance for "borrowing" this idea, because I have a (strong) feeling I'm going to end up writing my own vision of Perl as my cast iron pan at some point. As the above list likely shows, it just fits my perspective too well to pass up.

    I promise to attribute you fully for the original idea and inspiration, though, and if I end up writing something, I'll link back to here. ;-)

Re: Perl is my cast iron pan
by sundialsvc4 (Abbot) on Feb 26, 2013 at 17:59 UTC

    We still use the cast-iron ware that was my great grandparent’s, and it still works great.   There is no better “non-stick cookware” to be found.

    Here’s a little trick that I picked up one day at Waffle House:   if you crumple up a piece of aluminum foil, it makes a great scratcher with which to clean a pot or skillet (without soap).   Then, just throw it away.

Re: Perl is my cast iron pan
by blue_cowdawg (Monsignor) on Feb 27, 2013 at 14:07 UTC

    I absolutely love this analogy. I too am a fan of cast iron cooking pots and pans. I have a Dutch Oven, chicken fryer, several skillets in various sizes and a griddle all in cast iron and I use the heck out of them. The only other pan that I feel the same way about is my stainless saute pan.

    I spend a lot of time cooking both for my family and for various charitable organizations. The only fault my cast iron cooking pots have is they ain't big enough for the charitable organization I cook for where the minimum number of people I'm cooking for is generally 30. Hard to do with my Dutch Oven. Then I turn to the various stainless steel gear I own.

    Where the analogy breaks down a bit is for embedded systems programming (Arduino) I use C++ because of the wealth of libraries I can call upon to simplify my work. Darn near all the rest of the programming I do is in Perl though. Occasionally I write stuff in Java if the situation merits it.

    There's something to be said about old fashioned tried and true stuff especially Perl.


    Peter L. Berghold -- Unix Professional
    Peter -at- Berghold -dot- Net; AOL IM redcowdawg Yahoo IM: blue_cowdawg
Re: Perl is my cast iron pan
by thirdm (Sexton) on Mar 05, 2013 at 18:00 UTC

    I wonder if it's not best to ignore any statements about it supposedly being in decline (or what it's not suitable for or line noise yada yada yada), or at least not to repeat or link to them in places that casual users (like me) go to learn more about Perl. I recall once tuning into comp.lang.tcl, which is quite a nice group, though I never actually ended up using tcl (yet). What struck me, and a lot of what I remember now, was how often a subject along the lines of, "the outer world doesn't realize that tcl/tk is still alive and well," or "the outer world doesn't appreciate how much progess we've made" would recur. I had no picture of the tcl community before but now my picture was that they're riding some kind of lifeboat or whatever. Similar story when I check out comp.lang.lisp. I guess people feel a need to respond to cheap ideas in the wider world, maybe in some cathartic way, but the effect for me was to act as a repeater perpetuating the very ideas they fell in conflict with (and with this post it makes another hop -- doh!).

    I liked the rest of your piece, though.

Re: Perl is my cast iron pan
by TomDLux (Vicar) on Mar 08, 2013 at 18:46 UTC

    I particularly like this analogy cause in the 60's and 70's people were getting rid of cast-iron frying pans, or leaving them in the bottom drawer for years at a time, because they were heavy, unlike the nice new aluminum or teflon pans.

    Now those same pans are getting regular use, or pans 50 years older. Hard for anything to go wrong with a cast-iron frying pan.

    As Occam said: Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.

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