I ask you, dear reader, what activity could be more rewarding on a warm, springtime afternoon in Los Angeles than buying an American-made, cast-iron skillet for 20% off retail? There I was, filled with anticipation, checking out the grilling gear at my local OSH (Orchard Supply Hardware) on Bundy, in Santa Monica. I was looking for a skillet suitable for cooking fish and such on my propane-fueled, outdoor grill. Just the other night, I had fired up my grill for the first evening of the 2016 outdoor grilling season, when I slow-cooked a freshly cut, kosher, 1.5 lb. London broil, to near perfection. I followed up the next night with grilled turkey burgers (also kosher), seasoned with shawarma spices, the better to conjure the flavors of the middle east. Tonight, I planned on grilling wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon (which turned out to be Canadian, fresh-frozen coho salmon, but, at least the fish was from cold, North American waters; that's what you get at Trader Joe's). I needed a skillet in which to cook said salmon, because most fish, when grilled, gets flaky, falls apart, and slips through the grates, and that's just not good. Or, the skin falls off. Usually, both.
So, I am perusing the offerings in the grilling-ware isle at OSH, and find a few items that fit the bill, until, ARGH! I flip the product over in its packaging to see "Made in..."(insert someplace other than the USA, and not one of Europe's renowned centers of fine cuisine and craftsmanship). The items were nice-looking, most likely brushed aluminum. The metal was a bit too thin-gauged for this discerning shopper. You see, I was not just shopping for just a skillet. I was shopping for an affirmation of quality; a certain heftiness, solidity, hand feel, and finish. The price? $19.99 plus tax, for either of two items under my consideration.
On the verge of caving in, I suddenly found my mettle, steeled myself to further skillet-hunting, and decided that I wanted something better; not an attractive-looking, decently made cooking implement designed for use on a shiny, stainless steel propane grill sitting on someone's suburban patio, or, in my case, a Westside LA condo balcony, but, instead, a heavy, cast-iron, chuck-wagon-type skillet made for use over a campfire in the great outdoors. Alas, OSH don't sell none such chuck-wagon paraphernalia. But Sports Chalet does, and the store's right around the corner from OSH!
So, I hop back in my car, scoot over to the Sports Chalet parking lot, and, Lordy sakes alive, the Sports Chalet done be goin' outta business! Everything must go! All items 20% to 50%-off! You see, recently, the national, big-box sporting goods retailer, Sports Authority, and Sports Chalet, a western regional chain, decided to close shop. Amazon put them out of business. Undifferentiated, brick-and-mortar retailers cannot compete against Amazon, even by selling undifferentiated, lower-cost, imported goods to the indifferent masses. Imagine that!
But, the story has a happy ending, at least for this guy. Sitting on a half-empty shelf in the camping section, just where I had hoped that I would find what I was looking for, was one last cast-iron, open-flame, outdoor skillet, manufactured in the USA by Lodge, an American maker of enduring, cast-iron cooking gear. To top off my day, the Lodge skillet retailed for $19.99, just like the less substantial items that I saw at OSH, except, at the soon-to-be-out-of-business Sports Chalet, I got 20% off.