In response to an earlier post about the experience of browning chicken in a friend's extraordinary enameled iron pan, family members offered to donate one (enameled pan, that is) to The Slow Cook's kitchen battery. So I arranged an outing with my in-laws to Arundel Mills Mall outside Annapolis to visit the Le Creuset outlet.
At least we thought we were going to visit the Le Cruiset outlet.
After parking in what must be one of the world's largest stretches of asphalt, we entered a mall the size of a small city and made a bee-line for where mother-in-law had last seen Le Creuset. Well, darned if we drew a complete blank. No Le Creuset outlet to be found, nor was it listed on the store directory.
Had we merely imagined there was a Le Creuset outlet on the premises? Mother-in-law insisted there was--or had been.
So while she went off to delve further in the mysterious disappearance of the cookwares store, father-law-in and I found ourselves standing outside what looked like the entrance to Yosemite National Park--columns of timbers and a pitched lodge roof--that turned out to be something called Pro Bass Shops Outdoor World.
Through the front windows you could see acres of tents and kayaks hanging from the rafters and all sorts of golf clubs lined in rows. Just the place to waste a few minutes while we waited for the Le Crueset mystery to unravel. Except there in the short distance I noticed a sign amidst the camping gear that said "Cooking." I had to see what that was about.
We passed propane stoves and deep fat fryers in all shapes and sizes. There were a hundred or so varieties of beef jerky and several different models of vacuum packers and food dryers, just the thing if you're thinking of a long stay in the woods of Alaska, I thought.
But there at the end of the row I caught my breath: meat grinders and sausage stuffer--oh, there were so many different kinds. And so many different sizes: display models--some as big as my car, it seemed, at least big enough to make sausage out of a deer or elk or moose--and then stacks of them in their boxes ready to take home. Just tons and tons of sausage stuff. Who knew?
Suddenly, I was not so interested in a saute pan anymore.
After inspecting all the different meat grinders I narrowed my choice to the one you see in the photo above, a .25-horsepower machine that will replace the little Rival "Grind-O-Matic" that we inherited from my wife's grandmother. I see many, many links of sausage stretching out before us....
What I did find a little scary was the sheer number of meat grinders and sausage stuffers on display in a store I'd never even heard of before. The beginning of hunting and butchering season approaches, so that would explain the interest in making sausage.
But I suddenly had this eerie feeling that I'd stepped into a parallel universe where I was not the only sausage fanatic on the planet. Apparently, there are many, many others like myself who think filling hog casings with ground up pork and garlic and sage is just the neatest thing. Who could they be? Where are they hiding? Why have I never seen them?
"We just put these out recently," explained the store clerk who came over to check me out. "By spring, they'll all be gone."
Very scary indeed...