Monday, June 18, 2007

Surprise on Aisle 3

These have been in stock half-a-year already, but we don’t know what they are.

How do you introduce someone to her first crock pot?

The blond sales girl in cookware was explaining why the crock pots – okay, okay, they’re really slow cookers for the purists among us – weren’t moving off the shelves.

My trip to the store that day had nothing to do with cookware. I needed an outdoor thermometer with Fahrenheit temperatures, an elusive commodity in the land of Celsius.

Walking past cookware, however, my head automatically swiveled toward the steamers, electric tea pots and blini skillets just in case the one item I’ve always wanted – a crock pot – might be in stock. After eight years in Russia, I had pretty much given up on finding a made-for-220-volt crock pot anywhere on the continent. My adventures and misadventures here with crock pots and converters of foreign electricity that I’ve lugged over from the States could fill a book. But let’s get on back to the cookware aisle.

Blond sales girl eyed me with wonderment. Here was someone who could introduce her to the mysterious little appliance.

So how do you introduce someone to her first crock pot? Just for grins, I decided to try the mantra of FlyLady, my favorite mentor of household organization.

A crock pot is like a secret weapon in your kitchen.

Problem was that the Russian word for weapon was escaping me so I tried synonyms.

A crock pot is like. . . it’s like an automatic in the kitchen.

Hmmm, no dice. Automatic weapons are rare in kitchens, even in Russia.

A crock pot is like. . . a pistol in the kitchen.

Pistol was even worse. And bomb was out of the question.

By now, blond sales girl was eyeing with a combination of pity, amusement and a dash of suspicion. Fortunately she didn’t make a run for security.

I switched strategies.

Crock pots are really popular at home,
I said. They’re great for making sauces and soups. You can toss in all the ingredients in the morning and return home hours later to the aroma of dinner ready. It’s wonderful.

We even have special cookbooks with recipes just for crock pots.

Blond sales girl was interested but not sold. I realized that she and others like her lack a genuine crock pot experience. Perhaps I could do in-store demonstrations, handing out samples in little paper cups. The aroma of something tomato-based with garlic and onion would draw a crowd.

Then crock pots would fly off the shelves. Rostov would become the crock pot capital of southwest Russia. The crock pot would become a staple in every kitchen. Yes and I could play a part in that transformation of culinary culture.

Still deciding if I’m going to spring for a crock pot, myself though. I stopped by last weekend to check the crock pot inventory. No action there. Double-checked the price: 1,990 rubles for the 6.5 liter model. That’s $76 and Wal-Mart would sell it for a third of that. But throw into the pot the cost of excess baggage and the electricity converter and the waiting time of 12 months or so until I’m in a time zone anywhere near a Wal-Mart, and the cost pretty well evens out.

So I’d better hustle on down for that crock pot or I’ll be sorry. But I still haven’t tracked down a Fahrenheit thermometer. Alas, I’ve resorted to a mathematical formula for converting Celsius temperatures into something I understand. Our high today is 31 degrees. And here we are, in the middle of June.