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The great Christmas crockpot mission

I spent much of Saturday on a shopping crusade.

It started with me and my children working our way up and down Main Street hitting the shops before moving out of the downtown in our effort to get the names checked off of our Christmas lists.

Something for my wife. Check. Something for Alex. Check. Something for Beth. Check.

Things were going smoothly. Too smoothly. I envisioned being done before dark and being able to spend the longest full-moon of the year warm and sipping hot cocoa, or perhaps a nice brandy old fashioned. Perhaps we would even be able to watch some of the shows on our annual Christmas family movie list.

My wife, reminded me that I need to make her a batch of chili for her to bring to work for a holiday potluck on Tuesday.

“Did we ever find the lid to the crock-pot?” She asked, with a knowing gleam in her eye.

The crock pot has been a bone of contention between us for some time. My first crock pot, and the one by which I measure all other crock pots, was a beautiful six-quart monstrosity. Its large green ceramic bowl and plastic lid, served well for years. The control knob allowed the choice between low and high heat. It was all that was needed in a slow cooker. It was a device designed to be plugged in, loaded with ingredients and left to do its work without interference or hassle. There was no constant monitoring of thermostats or concern that a pressure gasket might fail and blow a hole through your kitchen wall.

It was much like the perfect employee — reliable, steady and operating independently.

All that came crashing down one day after bringing it home from a potluck and having it fall out of my car onto the pavement. The bowl was shattered, and with it, some measure of happiness left the world.

We replaced the crockpot that Christmas with a new model. It was sleek and black as the heart of my buddy’s ex-wife when she dumped him for an old flame. It has a heavy, yet terrifyingly fragile glass lid, and fancy buttons and glitzy digital control panel. To operate it you needed to set times inputting how long you wanted it on different heat levels.

What part of simply dumping ingredients into it and turning it on did the designers forget?

The crockpot is not the domain of gourmets, but for people who want to make a roast that will fall apart on their fork when they sit down to dinner after a long day at work or will keep their potluck potato casserole warm on the office lunch serving line.

I have an uneasy truce with the abomination that takes up space in my cupboard claiming to be a crockpot. Unfortunately, when we brought the device to a gathering last year, we came home with someone else’s lid. I am not exactly sure how this happened and none of the others who were there claimed to have a mismatched lid.

I remember a simpler time, a happy time, when you could go into any store that sold small appliances and find a basic, inexpensive slow cooker. My fun-filled day of shopping for presents, rapidly turned into a search for a new crockpot.

My children mocked my quest to regain the lost crockpot of my youth. They did not understand why I would not want the whistles and bells or my refusal to consider the higher-priced and multi-modal options.

There is a specific window of quality that is demanded of slow cookers. Enough at the low end that you don’t fear for it bursting into flames on your kitchen counter, but not so much that you will forever hold a grudge against your weird in-law’s extended family that came in from out of state and used the buffet table as the landing zoning for a rambunctious game of indoor tackle football.

With my wife’s commitment for me to make chili for her to bring in to work, I was driven in my search and finally long after dark and fighting my way through crowds of shoppers succeeded in my mission. While far from being the dream machine of my younger years, the new model’s locking lid and simple knob design will more than make up for any shortfall.

As Christmas columns go, my apologies go out to you since this is more about the commercial aspects of the season, rather than being a deep, and introspective exploration of the meaning behind the season or the ongoing struggle with the seasonal depression and lingering grief which afflicts many of us this time of year. The past few years have been challenging for all of us, and I, for one, am looking forward to brighter days to come.

Merry Christmas to all of you.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.