|Random Acts of Journaling collab entry:
My wife has written in the past about my experiments in back-yard grilling and rocketry. Heck, I might have myself, but right now I’m just too darn lazy to go back into my archives to take a look. But let’s just say that I had plenty of coals to put into the grill that I had borrowed from my father-in-law, plenty of lighter fluid, a windy Independence Day, and pre-formed hamburger patties chock full of fat and grease that I hadn’t bothered to pat off.
So picture this: with the grills well-heated, and the lighter fluid well soaked in, and the fat from the hamburger patties dripping down onto the hot, hot coals, flames erupt. Big flames. Huge freakin’ flames. I had warned both my father and my father-in-law that I was inexperienced in the art of backyward grilling, but they seemed comfortable subjecting themselves and our families to my experiment. The flames shot skyward from the grill, and my father, in an effort to be helpful, suggested from his reclining position in the lawn chair that perhaps the thing to do would be to put the lid on the grill, thus denying the flames of precious oxygen and thereby snuffing them. So I closed the vents on the lid and slammed it down forcefully onto the grill.
I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but I think something like this probably occurred: the lid forced lots of air down into the grill, momentarily giving the flames lots of extra oxygen, and lots of extra fat. The vents on the bottom of the grill were still open. And so, when I slammed down the lid, huge flames shot out from the vents on the bottom of the grill, like the flames that shoot out of the base of a Saturn V rocket just before lift-off!
Just a few more ounces of force there, and that grill would be orbiting the earth today. Imagine the field day that the conspiracy theorists would have with that: "The aliens are here… and they want more hickory sauce." The incident was so infamous that my wife commissioned Evilpheemy, who wasn’t even there, to draw this very accurate representation of the event.
I found these poor-man’s experiments in outdoor culinary rocketry fasincating. So I reluctantly returned the grill to my father-in-law, and asked Jennifer if I could please have a grill of my very own to play with. So this past Christmas, bless her daring heart, she got me one.
And two weeks ago, I assembled the gantry in our back yard so that I could put the grill in place.
Actually, though, it hasn’t gone at all that bad. After some initial excitement with the chimney starter that Jennifer had also given me so that I could light the coals without having to use lighter fluid, I actually managed to get the coals list and going just fine. Jennifer had also gotten me a book chock full of grilling tips, secrets, and recipes, and an apron emblazoned with the picture that Evilpheemy had drawn. So, with book in hand and apron around my front, I set about grilling teriyaki salmon steaks and vegetables.
To my surprise and delight, the grill did not launch itself into the sky, and the salmon turned out quite well. They were lean enough so that there was no fat to drip onto the coals, but still juicy enough to be tender and to absord the teriyaki marinade and baste quite well.
I decided to expand my audience, and so when Jennifer’s mother came over the other night for dinner, I decided to grill up some foil-wrapped chicken with vegetables and mesquite/garlic sauce. Again, they turned out very good; I got plenty of compliments from both my wife and my mother-in-law on the meal.
This weekend, my aunt and my uncle and cousin are coming over. I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to grill for them, but I’m sure it’s going to turn out well. I know that Jennifer’s been finding it amusing now that every time we go to a grocery store or a drug store I am inevitably drawn to the grilling or outdoor cooking section, looking at tools and utensils. "I need that scraper, honey. Can we get that fish basket? Oooh, wooden-handled tongs!" And this evening, I actually did break down and buy a small Betty Crocker cookbook of grill recipes.
I’ve always liked grilled food. There’s nothing quite like the taste and smell of a slab of dead, cut up large mammal cooking over an open fire. But I find my own fascination with grilling fascinating in itself. Am I trying to over-compensate for embarrassing myself with the rocket-grill last Independence Day? After all, that’s two years in a row that I’ve embarrassed myself on the Fourth of July in front of both mine and Jennifer’s families (the year before, I’d proven that I was incapable of lighting a firework even with a butane torch — but that’s another story that Jennifer has more than adequately told in her journal.
Or maybe it’s just that, as Jennifer’s mother says, "Weber is not just an appliance… it’s a cult."
My outdoor cooking/rocketry experiments will continue. And if you’re even in culinary distress, perhaps a rocket grill will come swooping out of the sky to rescue you.
P. S. As of this writing, the domain www.rocket-grill.com is still available. I admit, I’m tempted…