The holiday weekend yawned before us, and Ned, who enjoys food and eating and talking about food and eating and perusing menus to decide what to eat and then discussing it, said, "We should grill out at your house." I have a grill, see, and also a back yard and a deck. Which makes my house ideal for a cookout. Except for the part where you have two people who excel at the chef-ing. Is what we do.
"First, we need to get you one of those chimneys," said Ned, like he knew from grills and cooking and did I mention neither of us cook?
(To be fair, Ned has two or three dishes he prepares for himself, but he's just learned these since I met him, and one thing you don't want to do if you want any novelty in your life is ask Ned what he made for dinner. "Beans and rice," he'll say, 77 nights out of the week. Alternatively, he might say, "Rice and beans," and I'm just saying that Ned would have made an excellent Tibetan monk or war prisoner or something.)
"A chimney? But I…don't even have a fireplace," I told him.
But it turns out, there's this new thing for your grill, and it looks like a tall sifter or something, and yes it IS weird that I know what a sifter is. You dump your charcoal in the sifter, and then you sift it. Or burn it and sift it. Or maybe nothing gets sifted at all and I need to get over the sift again, like we did last summer.
So we went out and bought one, like we were cooks who cook, and we also bought hamburgers and buns and corn on the cob and then we came home and realized we'd forgotten 80 things, such as condiments that weren't expired because have you met my kitchen?
After a return trip to the store, in which post-millennium condiments were gotten and so on, we got home and realized we'd need newspaper to burn in the sifter thing, so we…went to the store and then we killed ourselves and came back to life and this whole story is a lot like that Found a Peanut song you sang at camp, where you find a peanut and it's rotten and you eat it and you die and you come back to life and find another peanut.
Dear Mom: Do you miss me singing songs I learned at camp? Because I could totally call you right now and sing a few bars of The Other Day I Met a Bear.
Out in the woods (out in the woods). Oh, way out there (oh, way out there).
Our grocery bill came to $82. "We could have gone to a STEAKHOUSE for that," said Ned, who would have probably suggested we find a riceandbeanshouse instead.
Before we got the grill hot and bothered, Ned decided we needed to make homemade salsa. Yes, he did. Homemade salsa, with the peppers and the tomatoes and the other things that needed chopping, and he chopped and he diced and he sliced and he cut, and the dogs were scared of all the cutting sounds, and the peppers burned his hand because we didn't know which peppers were super hot so we got a bunch and turns out, hey! Those hot cherry peppers? Hot! And finally?
The salsa was made, and the sun was setting. I am not even kidding you. We had spent SO MUCH TIME shopping and chopping and not knowing what we were doing that it was, like, a midnight cookout, and at this point we were so hungry we descended on that salsa like Hispanic seagulls. And oh, it burned. It burned us so. But it was worth it. Because, hungry?
We took our firey mouths outside and put the coals in the chimney thing. Enclosed please find a photo of Ned getting this flamey party started. While we stood there, sated from salsa and mesmerized by the flames, we noted the sifty thing was burning. On the outside.
"You see how it's on fire, there? You know what's burning? The directions that were glued to the outside of the thing." Ned drank his beer. "I wonder if we should have maybe READ the directions before we set them on fire." We watched as they curled away. "Well, we can't un-burn them now," he said.
Nine hundred and fifty-nine hours later, Ned stood in the darkness, holding his cell phone as a kind of flashlight over the still-raw burgers. "I think…I think maybe we should go out to eat," he said, as the last energy he got from that salsa waned from his being. Most of the hamburger meat had fallen into the grill. Finally Ned brought in the dregs that were left and we cooked them on a pan in my kitchen. I was a skeleton at that point as I clicked into the dining room and we shared the .0007 ounces of meat that had remained on the correct side of the grill.
The next day, after Ned worked out and so did I, if by "worked out" you mean bought FABULOUS! NEW! SHOES!,
Ned said, "I want to try again."
"I do. I don't want to be a failure at grilling. Would you mind if we went to your house and tried again? I Googled the chimney."
There's something Almanzo probably never said to Laura Ingalls Wilder in all their years together. "I Googled the chimney."
And that, folks, is how Ned and I found ourselves at the VERY SAME grill, cooking the VERY SAME meal for the second day in a row.
Yours in cookery, June