Getting the hang of grilling isn’t likely for us

June 15, 2011

My mission was clear on this day. I don’t know why it shouldn’t be; I’ve been doing this same exercise for the last 40 years of summer seasons, at least since I’ve been keeping records. That mission was to look for a new outdoor grill. Don’t be ridiculous, I didn’t say buy a new outdoor grill, just look. Why I participate in this futile exercise is a mystery to me. It’s just that it always seems that people who barbecue have a lot more fun. You see them on television always exchanging recipes with secret hot sauce ingredients and then sending them in to the “Today” show and entering contests, where they sip cold drinks and regale each other with barbecue stories. And they laugh a lot at stuff like corn and squash - head thrown back and huge guffaws - it’s as if they are some drug-crazed South American dictators who have just seen a commercial for a Just Say No policy.

They also seem to have a lot of friends who jet ski and jump into water swinging from ropes. It’s a lot more exciting than watching your neighbor’s photo slides from the thimble museum in Davenport, Iowa. Barbecue people get to wear those cute hats with matching aprons with stuff that says “Men at Work.” You just know they will always be happier than you can ever contemplate being in your own life. After all, turning on the stove and trying to crack jokes while making stews and roasts in July doesn’t seem to cut it. People tend to be too busy when you ask them over for some thick twice-baked pork chops.

Of course, one of the main reasons I haven’t purchased one of those big commando top-of-the-line grills is just for safety’s sake. My husband and I are so inept at barbecuing, I’ve taken to stocking the house with burn ointment, healing balm, bandages and crisis center hot line numbers. And that’s only when we are discussing if we should even entertain the idea of buying another grill.

Oh, we started off small, like so many young couples working their way up the ladder. It wasn’t a starter house, but a tiny grill that had three little legs that kept it about two inches off the ground. You might describe it as a little more than a sewer grate, but not by much. You could probably fit three shrimp on it without too much crowding. And you were able to buy these grills in a local all-night convenience store and fold them up to fit into your purse. It had ready-made charcoal with lighter fluid, so all you had to do was throw a match on it.

Even that simple task almost burned the house down when the phone rang and it was a long conversation, which only came to a halt when the flames shooting up reached above the back porch railing. Eventually we graduated to a Junior Weber. At first we didn’t use it; we just left it on the porch, so we looked like we knew what we were doing. It was simply an effort to fit in with the rest of the neighborhood.

And it was a great little grill for two people. But the problem with the Junior Weber is that the handle is metal and heats up to about 10,000 degrees. I don’t have to tell you that we never considered buying barbecue mitts. The top of the grill became a flying, flaming disc, thrown like we were at an Olympic athletic tryout. Thus a great deal of cursing and swearing ensued, which did not fit in with the neighborhood.

Americans are creative people and never say never. So we bought a cardboard cutout of a Super Triple Commando Navy SEAL Grill on eBay for our backyard; they threw in a can of Ode to Carbon, the latest perfume. It’s perfect and goes along with our fake dog, fake cell phones, fake satellite dish, and let’s face it, fake lives. Now we get a lot of invitations to barbecues, which is the only way to cook out. Mission accomplished.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.