would like to share with you an experience I had back in the 80’s.
Even though it’s so far in the past, the memory lingers on, and I’m
hoping it will give you a smile. I
wrote it on June 2, 1983, for my newspaper column, which was also called
Great American Cookout
And How To Survive It
For those of you who have been seeing great clouds of
black billowing smoke rising profusely in the distant horizon every weekend, do
not fear the worst. It is merely
our barbeque grill giving off its final breath of life.
Anyone who has ever known, or been married to a person who has come down
with what I refer to as “Barbeque Fever” knows exactly what I am talking
A few months ago my husband decided that this year we wouldn’t fool
around with just any dinky little grill. He
made the decision to buy one of those reassembled 55 gallon drums, complete with
cast iron grating, which, by the way, takes two people to lift up.
Unless, of course, one of them happens to be the Incredible Hulk.
He picked up his pride and joy in Gainesville and brought it home on the
back of his pickup, only because it wouldn’t fit next to him in the cab.
Backing into our yard, he joyously wrestled it to the ground with the
pride of any new father. When he
finally got it in just the right place, which was two feet from our picnic
table, he stood there for a good twenty minutes admiring it, already tasting the
first meal he would prepare on it.
Unfortunately, it rained the first three weekends that our grill was with
us, but finally the perfect day did arrive, and none too soon, as my husband was
starting to go into deep depression over the entire matter.
The decision of what to cook was made.
It would consist of ribs, chicken, and the old stand-by, hamburgers.
Wanting the meat to have that natural outdoor flavor, aged wood was
placed inside the barbeque pit, fifty pounds to be exact.
Along with this was placed no less than ten pounds of lighter.
For those of you who do not know what that is, it’s pieces of pine,
that contain a natural fuel (kerosene), used to create a very intense fire. I would not recommend that anyone use this in any large
amounts within their fireplaces, as it could very well burn your home down to
the ground. I know this because
when we first moved into our home, I used it in our fireplace, and was quite
happy with the cozy, warm atmosphere it created, until our neighbor called us on
the phone and wanted to know if everything was alright, because he saw flames
leaping out of the top of the chimney. Needless
to say, that was my last attempt.
Back to the barbeque…..the wood burned perfectly, once the flames
settled down to a few feet, that is. The
grating was set on top until it was nice and hot, so the right time for putting
the meat and chicken on had finally arrived.
With all his epicurean skills, my husband carefully placed each little
rib, chicken breast, and patty into place, expecting to hear that wonderful
“sizzle” at the moment they touched the grill.
Well, there we were, the five of us, sitting around the table,
waiting…and waiting. I never
realized just how dead chicken could look until I watched it sitting there pink
and limp, without a sizzle to be heard. Somehow,
the fire had cooled down and was not doing the job.
A look of panic came over him as my husband rushed over and hurriedly put
the cover down over it, hoping somehow that this would keep the heat in. We
decided to leave it alone and let everything cook for about a half hour, without
lifting the lid.
The moment of truth came when he opened it up, expecting to see succulent
ribs and chicken cooked to perfection, only to find it still sitting there,
dead, pink, and limp…
The final desperate measure was taken.
The grate was removed while an entire can of charcoal lighter fluid was
poured over twenty-five pounds of charcoals that were placed inside, over the
wood. By this time hunger had gotten the best of all of us and the
children were beginning to get testy. After
another forty-five minutes everything looked cooked and we all began to eat.
As the first bites were taken I couldn’t help but notice the glances
that were being passed across the table from one to the other.
Only a fool with a death wish would have told my husband at that point
that the food was still not cooked. So,
with the choice of either eating, with a possible case of botulism, or not
eating, and a total alienation of my husband’s affections, we opted for the
former. Actually it wasn’t that
bad. Whatever was cooked was eaten.
The rest we just chalked up to experience for the next time.
My husband is not one to accept defeat.
Since that time, there have been five or six cookouts, and I can honestly
say that things are looking up. Yesterday
we barbequed chicken and it was quite good.
We are presently down to using a ten pound bag of charcoals and a half
can of fluid.
So take heart, all of you wives and sweethearts out there, who have not
as yet shared this experience. Remember,
when those flames are leaping, and the black smoke is making your eyes
tear…….it has gotten you out of the kitchen and into the great outdoors!