The Sandoval Signpost (Web edition) is pleased
as punch (diet punch that is) to bring you the humor
and insightful human observations of Daniel Will Harris,
author of My
Wife and Times. —Ed].
Grill This Email
By Daniel Will Harris
I don't know why, but I stopped wanting to BBQ a few years ago when my house almost burned down. No, it wasn't my fault, it was a nearby forest fire, but somehow after that, the idea of flames close to the old homestead have not been good for the appetite.
So recently when my wife wanted to BBQ, I said, "No, absolutely not, I forbid it," and the next thing I knew we were driving home from the store with a hibachi to BBQ on.
So there we were, surrounded by a yard full of kindling, with a small fire-driven device, sure to spew sparks. And my wife couldn't have been happier. I warned her that if she burned down the neighborhood I was going to chase her down the street brandishing a tire iron. She was amused.
My niece, Ocea, helped me assemble the hibachi. Despite it being only 10" square, it was somehow designed requiring two people for assembly. The instructions involved some badly photocopied line drawings that looked like a schematic of the invention of a square wheel—or instructions showing how to attach a tail to an armadillo, it wasn't clear which.
I immediately did what I do best—put it together wrong, with the feet (small scraps of flammable wood) on sideways so that the thing could fall over, spilling white hot coals onto the flammable wood table my wife had chosen to hold the hibachi on our flammable wood deck.
After all this work, my wife's first words were "It's so small!" She was apparently unable to comprehend that a 10" square box that said "10" grill" would contain a 10" square grill. "I thought it would fold out or something," she informed me. "What about the picture on the box?" I asked. "I didn't think it was 'shown actual size'" she answered, having missed the words "shown actual size" printed on the box.
My wife is, apparently, so imaginative that the contents of boxes don't have to be constrained by the rules of physics in our dimension. In her mind a 4 foot weber grill can somehow emerge from a 10" box, though some combination of a cardboard space time warp, and perhaps shrinkage. Maybe she thought it said, "Just add lighter fluid and the cast iron grill expands to four times it's size!" I would buy a grill like that if it would also shrink back down once it was cool.
At one point my wife had planned on cooking four chicken breasts, four pieces of corn on the cob, and other assorted grilled vegetables—on her imaginary grill. Then it hit her that four chicken breasts by themselves would only fit if the chickens were midgets.
Now that it was assembled I noticed that the grill fit at an angle designed, I guess, to cause anything placed on it to slide off. This didn't seem condusive to cooking something for more than the time it took to slide off. "Can't you bend it?" She asked, as if I was superman and could bend cast iron with my bare hands. "No, but I have a feeling that when we put something on it, it will probably fall off, so don't worry."
Now came time to "fire it up!" We'd bought a bag of Mesquite charcoal so that it would have that natural forest-firey flavor. But when we opened the bag we discovered that they were more like meteorites than briquettes—each piece of charcoal was larger than the entire grill.
"Can't we break them into smaller pieces with the hammer?" she asked, looking at me not as if this was a question but a command. Whenever she says "Can't we do something?" I know it means "Can't you?"
So I took out the hammer and hammered away but only managed to dent the charcoal. The head of the hammer, however, did manage to fly off somewhere into the garden. I was just glad it didn't go through a window.
We had thought the charcoal was the self-lighting kind, but upon closer reading of the bag, it said, "Just drop the whole bag into your grill and light the bag!" If we'd lit the bag our entire deck would have become the grill.
So now we had the charcoal in the dimension-challenged grill. For kindling, my wife used shredded paper from a box that had arrived through an eBay auction, as well as twigs and dried leaves that had fallen onto the deck.
This was when we realized that somehow everything on our deck was flame *retardant*--except, of course, for the deck itself. That's right, twigs and dry leaves, dried rosemary and lavender that should have gone up in smoke just sat there. Even the paper didn't burn.
A half hour went by and the grill was still only warm to the touch. My wife and niece insisted they could see a red glow. I feared it was the hibachi's wooden feet.
And then, after only about an hour and a half and a full lighter of butane, it was somewhat hot. Not white hot, mind you, but at least not cold. So on went the chicken breasts. Without a sizzle. We covered it with the old Weber cover (which could have covered four of these little grills). It was getting dark and cold, but at least we finally heard some sizzling, and the chicken was getting cooked.
My wife said, "When this is done you're going to tell me this was the best chicken you've ever eaten." I replied, "I've certainly worked up an appetite," as I hosed the deck off again.
Once we took the chicken off the grill my wife was going to douse the coals with the hose. I said, "Let me move away so I don't get covered with ash," and she said, "There won't be any ash," just as the ash exploded in a small mushroom cloud.
I made sure the grill was sitting in water, so there was no chance of a tragedy during dinner. And the result? It was the best chicken I've ever had—I guess there's something to be said for low-tech.