Monday, November 21, 2005



I will make this confession to you. I am one of those people who has purchased a Ronco Showtime Rotisserie Oven.

You might think that as a critical thinking egghead, I'd be somewhat resistant to having my will power reduced to jelly by watching a lengthy infomercial. Ironically, it wasn't a TV infomercial that sold me that Showtime Rotisserie Oven. It was The New Yorker.

That's right -- I bought a Ronco Showtime Rotisserie Oven after reading an article in The New Yorker. I guess you could call it an infomercial for critical thinking eggheads. They did a fascinating profile on Ron Popeil, who, I learned, comes from a Jewish immigrant family of kitchen-gadget pitch-men dating back at least three generations. His grandfathers and uncles hawked kitchen knives on the Brighton Beach Boardwalk back before I was even born. They invented and sold gadgets like the Popeil Pocket Fisherman and the Vegematic. Ron Popeil himself is one of the most successful salesmen of our time.

I learned that Ron Popeil is something of an inventor. He designed the Showtime Rotisserie Oven and has invented numerous gadgets, including the Inside the Shell Egg Scrambler. I also learned that Ron loves rotisserie chicken. So do I! And there's not a reliably tasty source of rotisserie chicken here in my home town. So I bought the Showtime Rotisserie Oven without even waiting to catch the infomerical on TV.

I think I made about six rotisserie chickens on my Ronco oven. One of the appealing features of Ronco products is their money back guarantee if You Are Not Fully Satisfied. I'm someone who is willing to avail himself of the full satisfaction money back guarantee. I once bought, and then returned within 30 days, a brand new Saturn.

Here's the deal with the Ronco. It did cook the chicken as advertized: it comes out juicy, tender and flavorful, without being overcooked or undercooked. But:
1) It makes the whole house smell like rotisserie chicken for the next couple of days.

2) You have to use these elastic bands to bind the chicken around the spit. You get some bitter taste from the elastic bands seeping into parts of the chicken.

3) Some assembly was required. I made a small, but irreversible error in the assembly that caused the spit to fit imperfectly into its housing such that it made a loud, irritating click with every revolution.

4) Clean-up wasn't any easier than the cleaning up required after baking a chicken in your regular oven.
So I returned my Ronco Showtime Rotisserie Oven. I'm kind of sad about it, because my dream of having rotisserie chicken once a week died with the revocation of that purchase.

You'd think after that I would be impervious to any sales pitch by Ron Popeil. But last week, while aimlessly surfing cable in my hotel room, I happened across a Ronco infomercial. There he was, hawking kitchen knives. The fact is, we don't have a good set of steak knives around our house, and our kitchen knives are a paltry, random and on the whole pretty dull set.

Ron was offering a set of high quality steak knives, plus a full set of kitchen knives -- a $150 value, at least! -- for only 3 payments of $13.33. Basically 40 bucks -- what a steal!

But wait -- there was more! He would throw in -- absolutely free -- a chef quality meat cleaver. You would pay $40 just for the cleaver by itself!

But wait -- there was yet more. A serrated carving knife! A boning knife! A filet knife, that could filet huge raw salmon and halibut!

We have none of these things in our house. I'd pay $40 just for one or two of the knives offered. There was more and more until the knife set had over 40 pieces of cutlery -- meaning that you would pay less than $1 per knife! And he would just throw in -- absolutely free -- a compact wood storage block for the whole kit and caboodle!

I was mesmerized, drooling like Homer Simpson looking at an ad for a bacon cheeseburger topped with a melting mound of fresh creamery butter. Uhhh-huh-huh-huh-huh...

Luckily it's not quite in my nature to pick up the phone and call toll free to place my order. Plus there was some catch about "telling a friend" that didn't sit quite right. Plus, when you think about it, it's not like I'm standing around my kitchen, when we prepare food, and thinking, "Damn, what I could do with a boning knife and a professional quality meat cleaver."

But I told B about the knives anyway, hoping to create a groundswell of enthusiasm that would propel us into a purchase.
"Don't you remember the whole rotisserie debacle?" said B, not unkindly.

"But wait," I said, "there's more! I almost forgot about the 'Flavor Injector.' "
"But the rotisserie came with one of those."

"But that was just for liquid flavors. This is a solid flavor injector. It can inject garlic cloves... or olives! Right into the meat!"
B just shook her head sadly. And that was the end of it.

Do you mean to tell me there is not a Boston Market in your town? Or that there isn't a grocery store that makes rotisserie chicken? I find that difficult to believe. If, in fact, it is true, then you should quit the professor biz and open a rotisserie chicken restaurant right away!

As a recipient of "modestly priced" cutlery on a Consumermas several years ago, I think you should just save up and buy the fancy European "brand name" knife set they sell at Costco. I think it's still under 100 dollars (and I think they're Henkel knives). The cheap knives do cut, and they don't need sharpening, but that's because they're serrated and tend to chew up whatevet you are cutting at the moment.

I'm still waiting for the titanium cookware sets to come back to Costco. We should have bought them the first time we saw them. Oh, well...
Heh heh. You said "boning."
ok, i guess it's time to out myself because i am the proud owner of a 20 year old set of Ginzu knives (yes, with all the cool extra knives too!), bought for about 20 bucks when I was an impoverished new graduate furnishing her apartment. and, believe it or not, they are pretty dang good!
Awww man, not the rubber bands. Those are rank. You gotta use string.
Have you blogged about returning that Saturn to the dealer? If not, I want to hear more about that. What didn't you like about the car? And how did they react when you returned it? And didn't you have to undo the financing as well? I would imagine that returning a Saturn would be akin to trying to break free of a religious cult.

We once custom ordered a sofa and later returned it. Once it was delivered and in our apartment, we just didn't like it. Something about the striped upholstery just didn't sit right with us. Actually, we really hated that sofa. The furniture store gave us a really hard time when we called them to make the return. We thought that was kind of funny because their store was plastered with signs promoting their 30 day money back guarantee -- no questions asked!
Oscar, if you really want Rotisserie chicken once a week, get the Showtime.

1. Whole house smell - doesn't the whole house smell like turkey on thanksgiving? Open a window while cooking, or put the device on the porch.

2. The elastics are stupid .. use butcher string instead.

3. You'll get the assembly correct this time I imagine.

4. You can figure out tricks (such as lining the drain pan in foil) to make clean up easier. The spit etc. go in the dishwasher, right?

I think your wife made you return it!
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