Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grill Master

The Fourth of July is fast approaching—time to separate the grill-masters from the weenies.

Many of us have been at it since Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of summer. It is on that weekend that we honor our fallen warriors, visit the graves of those who have gone before us, and forgive the husbands and fathers who don a silly apron in the backyard.

Memorial Day weekend is often the first time we men prepare our own special recipe of secretly sourced, corn fed, custom-ground, delicately seasoned ground beef... and slap some patties on the grill. This is when we knock the rust off both our grill, and our grilling game. It’s an accepted fact that things will go wrong—a little dirt and dog slobber are just part of the tradition.

This is not the case when Independence Day rolls around. By now, you’ve had several opportunities to mess things up, and it’s hoped that you have learned from your experience. Your wife never complained as she offered to cut away the charred surface of the steaks you almost cremated earlier in the season, and she really didn’t mind ordering that pizza when the bratwurst all tasted like charcoal lighter fluid some weeks back. But when everyone in the family had to turn in their burgers last weekend, so she could remove them from their buns, wash the condiments off, and return them to you to finish cooking the mostly raw patties—she started to show her concern.

It doesn’t help that you have the star pupil of Barbeque University living next door. Just yesterday, you and your kids were busy at the grill, relaying Super Soakers in an impromptu reenactment of old-time firefighting and the bucket brigade. About that same time, your neighbor, I’ll call him Steve, was serving braised duckling, roasted eggplant, cheesy breadsticks and a dessert of tropical fruit kabob, all perfectly prepared on his grill.

Your wife (silly woman) suggested that you go talk to Steve to see if you could pick up some grilling tips. You, of course, knew that the problem was with that old, worn-out grill you bought last year, and you went out and got a new grill—one that’s bigger and better than Steve’s. Trouble is, with a new piece of equipment, you’re back at the start of the learning curve… and time is running short.

Fortunately for you (and that incorrigible ego of yours) your wife has already set in motion a plan to save herself… and the kids. While you were attempting to assemble the new grill, she was talking to Steve’s wife about getting together for the Fourth. Don’t think it’s an accident that the assembly instructions you initially cast aside couldn’t be found when you finally decided that maybe they really could help…at least to get started.

And on the Fourth of July, when Steve starts spouting about the value of chunk charcoal, or the importance of proper grill lubrication, you shouldn’t feel bad. In fact, you should pay close attention to what he has to say—those missing assembly instructions will probably turn up yet, and you’ll have from now until Labor Day to regain your family’s confidence, and claim your rightful title: Grill Master.

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