The BBQ Grill: Angel or Demon?

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It started with a simple request; “Let’s break out the grill and cook a steak tonight.” “OK” I said, “I’ll just take the cover off the grill and here we go.”  How innocent I was. We don’t cook out. We use our regular indoor kitchen 99.9 per cent of the time. We’re not outdoorsy people. There are bugs and mosquitos out there and the last time we bought a full tank of fuel it didn’t cost more than the steaks.

It’s got to be one of the major holidays like Memorial Day or Labor Day that we even think about going outside to cook, and even then, we need to be coerced by company. I think guests expect it when you’re a homeowner that you’ll shun your kitchen and move the cookin’ outdoors as if you were on vacation in a national park and had to.

These are people that have a Hibachi on the balcony, a cute little bag of briquettes and tiny cooking tools that look like they came from Barbie’s Outdoor Adventure! The skill related to fixing a patty on one of those toys equals changing a lace on your sneaker.

No big deal. Going outside, I took the plastic cover off that big bad monster cooker and realized that whole colonies of microscopic creatures had formed, started civilizations and left their world to colonize parts unknown. Based solely on mold, I might be looking at a new cure for a disease as yet undiscovered. It had been so long since its use, that in the thrill of producing something edible, I had forgotten to clean the grill afterwards. I could hear the music from a Stephen King movie play in the background as I opened the lid. I saw not a grill with parallel bars, but a solid wall of alien gunk that could stand up to a steel bristled brush wielded by a tremendously muscled Mr. Clean. The scraping took a while with time outs for de-greasing when the stuff got on my arms.

After all that, I could turn on the gas, let the remaining stuff be burned off and take the steaks out of the fridge in preparation for the gala evening. Let’s see, open the nozzle; turn on the gas and voila! Nothing happened! It dawned on me that we were out of gas!

No problem I thought, there’s still time to take it to the gas station and fill it, or exchange it for a full one. Trouble was, it had been so long since the last filling that regulations had changed and the cap on my tank was now the old type and couldn’t be used. After calling four places, I found a BBQ grill specialty store that had the new regulator hose. I drove there, picked it up, and while there, checked the price of some new grills, got sticker shock, was glad I didn’t need one, and went home. Now it was too late to cook out and so we ate out.

Since we still needed a filled propane tank, I went to Home Depot the next day and bought one. Now let’s get cookin’. After hooking the new regulator hose to the new tank I didn’t realize that the grill, being 12 years old, had the old regulator connection. Decision time was at hand. We had to take back the regulator hose and price some new grills. We went back to the grill store and could have rented an apartment for what they were asking. These babies had more chrome than a ’55 Cadillac! Oh, they were good all right, but these grills were for people who didn’t own a kitchen and had to eat in the yard every day.

Slowly backing out of the store, we headed back to Home Depot. At this time of the year their selection was bigger than most used car lots. After an hour we knew more about outdoor grills than we wanted to know. How much did we really want to invest? Was cooking outdoors all it was cracked up to be? At this point, no!

We left the store, our heads spinning like the rotisserie feature we didn’t need, thank you.

“Let’s stop at Sears for some socks on the way home” I said. I was still geared up in the shopping mode, like some sale-a-holic on a binge looking for that one great deal. We pulled up to where America shops, and there they were; a couple of dozen scratched and dented grills lined up outside. At the end of the row a salesperson had fired one up and was producing a wonderful aroma of hot dogs and kraut. Was it the smell that made us buy? Was it the lure of a scratch and dent sale? Who cared if the lid had a dent, it was 50% off and already assembled? Besides, if anybody asked, I could make up a story about how a wild animal had dived out of a nearby tree going for the bratwurst and I slammed the lid just in time, its head causing the dent. Yeah, that’s right. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it; now pass the beans!

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