I apologize in advance to any vegetarians in the audience. Ok, not really.

It's such a familiar image, something out of a Norse legend: imagine a whole pig, skewered head to tail by a large, sturdy stake, slowly rotating over a blazing fire with a bunch of hairy barbarians eying it hungrily, wondering why they can't just eat the damned thing now.

Now take that image and clean it up a bit. Add stainless steel fixtures, huge ovens with multiple spits and a motorized rotation system instead of sweating, fur-covered men relying on brute human strength and you've got a modern rotissimat.

These places are hard to find - rotisserie chicken is available pretty much everywhere but stores that exclusively sell slow-cooked meat are more elusive. It could be because we, as a society, don't particularly like the idea that we can see our food cooking in front of us still in its animal form. We like it shrink-wrapped, sanitized, removed as far as possible from the animal it used to be. We like meat well enough, we just don't want to be reminded of what it used to be.

Personally, I have no problems recognizing what it is I'm putting in my mouth. I therefore find the experience of my local rotissimat to be extremely cool.

They smell wonderful. To pick a chain at random, Wendy's does everything in its power to focus your attention on what your food looks and tastes like than what it smells like, mostly because their food is actually cooked somewhere very far away from where you're actually eating it. A Rotissimat smells divine, smoky and spicy and mouth-wateringly good. It's...well, it's primal in the same way that (if you excuse the stereotype) good southern barbecue is primal.

There's also something almost balletic about a modern industrial rotisserie. Six spits mounted horizontally in a circle each rotate individually around a central heating core while the entire structure itself rotates. It's like watching the gears in a grandfather clock or the animatronics in a christmas window. Rotissimat owners know this and will generally place their ovens as close to their windows as possible. This "process as advertising" approach to selling food is refreshing, in a way - it's like they're saying "Look. This is how we cook our food. We have nothing to hide."

There is a downside, of course - this stuff ain't cheap. You get what you pay for, of course, the closest corollaries being a kosher deli or a good sushi restaurant: sure, pastrami at the Second Avenue Deli will be the best pastrami you can get practically anywhere, but it's still a $17 sandwich. It makes you ask if it's really worth it. On a day to day basis, I'd say no, but every once in awhile it's a good idea to treat yourself.

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