used to believe that a grill is not a girlís best friend.
Thatís not a bad credo, but it had begun to more and more
affect my quality of life, to say nothing about my standard
of entertaining. I could no longer deny that itís gauche to
invite friends to a dinner party and then expect them to cook
their own food.
And while it may be OK to not know how to use somebody elseís
power saw, as I discovered last week when I gave it a try,
it is not OK not to know how to use your own backyard
grill. I came to that realization slowly and only after I
began asking totally inappropriate people to man my grill.
At first I just asked people I knew well and had fed well
before. My friend Karenís husband, Brett had masterfully carved
up the ducks I had roasted for Christmas dinner one year in
the hopes of raising my familyís culinary appreciation to
new heights. (That didnít happenóIíve since down-sized to
split Cornish game hens and everybody is on their own with
But the duck experience told me that Brett seemed fearless
with poultry, so I didnít hesitate to ask him to grill the
chicken one time when he and Karen were over for dinner. Besides,
Iíve seen him at his own backyard grill, capably wielding
tongs in one hand and a gourmet beer in the other.
My sister was around for the next couple of grill occasions.
Though she exhibits no particular XY chromosomal habits, apart
from being a vicious ping-pong player, sheís fearless about
grilling. She even seems to enjoy it. If you go to dinner
at her house, she will at some point disappear under the carport
and return after a while bearing a platter laden with a menuís
worth of grilled specialties: jerk chicken, spice-rubbed tuna
steaks, chorizo with grilled peppers, eggplant and creamy
mozzarella, turkey burgers flecked with fresh herbs, lamb
kebabs, grilled corn, rosemary potatoes. You name it.
More recently, and to the chagrin of my daughter, I asked
my daughterís boyfriend to grill for me. Let it be said that
my daughterís boyfriend didnít have a clue about what he was
doing, but he was too nice to say no. And with more will than
skill, he pulled it off. But then things got worse.
I had invited an out-of-town guest to dinner. We had only
met a couple of times, but I figured a home-cooked meal would
make being away from home a little easier. And whatís homier
than potato salad and strawberry shortcake and a nice, thick,
grilled steak? I bribed my guest with bourbon and led him
into the backyard. Soon he was out at the grill, tending to
the steaks like an old pro while I, the hostess, cowered inside
shaking up a vinaigrette.
I knew then that my Grill-O-Phobia had gotten out of hand.
I mean, why have I always thought of grilling as Ďa manís
job?í I earn my living in a traditionally male profession,
after all. And Iím otherwise competent in the kitchenógive
me a banana to flambe, a steak to sear, a pepper to char and
Iíll do just fine. So a couple of weeks ago, I resolved to
I started small. CVS had a special on a portable charcoal
grill. It was called a Grill-and-Go. This cunning little device
is just about the size of a telephone book. It has fold-up
metal legs that become handles so that you can carry the grill
around with you in case you have a sudden hankering for a
kebob. The Grill-and-Go even came with its own ready-to-ignite
I made a little pyramid of charcoal and lit that, making sure
to stand back. Soon it was hot enough that I could
wedge three little turkeyburgers together over the hot spot
and start cooking. The result was a blend of shoe leather
and turkey tartare, but my daughters affirmed my efforts and
ketchup covers a multitude of sins.
Then I graduated myself to the new gas grill. My old gas grill
was a nightmare. Youíd flick the Ďigniteí switch to no avail,
then get a match, stick it at armís length into the invisible
cloud of propane and with an enormous whoosh fire would appear.
(Though as Brett pointed out, after that initial whoosh, there
was only about a 3Ē by 5Ē hot spot.) Cooking for a dinner
party was a little tricky, unless you liked your steak au
the new gas grill really is, as my guest chefs had assured
me, user-friendly. And once I got over my fear of opening
the tap on the propane tank, grilling commenced with ease.
Iíve grilled every vegetable I can think of. Last night I
grilled pizzas; Iíve got chicken marinating for tonightís
So itís true: I have made the rite of passage into Grill-Land.
All I need now is a good apron and a gourmet beer. I need
no longer depend on the kindness of strangers.