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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

You Sure You Didn’t Accidentally Grill Your Shoe Out There?

Worth every penny you’re not spending to read it.

So, we’re having a barbecue this weekend. I may have mentioned it.

(I mention a lot of things. It’s hard to keep track of them all. I’m just one man, dammit!)

Anyway, we also have a nearly-new grill. I may have also mentioned that. I may, indeed, have even mentioned that our fantabulous new grill is one of those combo dealies, where you can cook with gas or cook with charcoal, depending on your mood. And your supply of propane and propane accessories. Uh-yep.

(If you didn’t understand that last bit, it was a half-assed reference to King of the Hill. I have a weird history with that show. When I first saw it, I hated it. Loathed it like a cross-country trip with Joan Rivers. Yes, that bad. I think it was because it hit just a little too close to home — I know some of the rednecks and hicks and backwards rabblerousers portrayed on that show. Really — I know some of them very, very well, in fact. Which is why I don’t attend reunions, be they with family or college classmates. Too many bad memories. And squirrel meat. And toothless grins. And introductions to, erm, ‘sister-wives’. Let’s just move on, okay?

So, as I said, and then painfully reinforced, I wasn’t a fan of the show. But the assholes at Fox sandwiched the thing between cool shows like the Simpsons and Futurama for so long that I finally watched a few episodes.

(They couldn’t get me on Malcolm in the Middle, though. I know your tricks now, you network pantywaists!)

Anyway, try as I might to resist it — and I did — the show grew on me a bit, and then a bit more, and then just a little more. It’s still not my favorite, but as long as I keep in mind that these are Texan slack-jawed yokels, and not the variety that lives and drools where I grew up or went to school, then I can sit through an episode. And even giggle, just a little bit. I suppose in the end, it’s good to know that dimwitted boobery knows no geographical bounds.)

All right, where the hell was I? Oh, right, the grill.

So, in preparation for our big hoedown… shit. I must have that damned show on the brain now. Ahem.

In preparation for our beer-soaked revelry, my wife and I decided to ‘go charcoal’ last night. And yes, there’s probably some horrible, off-color joke about Thomas Jefferson in there somewhere. I’m not going there, dude; you’re on your own.

Anyway, we’d tried out cooking with gas on the grill a couple of times, but we’re planning something a little more special for Saturday, so we thought we should have a dry run, and try going the charcoal route. Dry run, indeed. While there was quite a bit of running, and no small amount of flailing — we’re very liberal with the flailing in this household, you understand — our experiment turned out to be anything but dry. Please, let me explain. Oh, please. Pretty please? Okay, great. Here goes.

So, the wife bought a couple of steaklets for the occasion. Or something. Mini-steaks? Non-ground-up beef circles? I don’t know. I really need to bone up on my meats.

(And if I hear just one of you snicker about me ‘boning up on my meats’, I’m going to stop this blog right here! In the middle of the road! I’ll do it! Don’t make me come back there, people.)

Whatever they were, they came from a cow, and they didn’t cost the crown jewels to buy. And there were three of them, each about the size of a hamburger patty, but just a bit thinner.

(Unless you’re used to eating at McDonalds, in which case they were much, much thicker. And brown instead of sickly gray. You wouldn’t have believed it.)

Anyway, that’s about all I can tell you about the meat in question. I’m sure it has a name, but since I don’t know it, I’ll just call them ‘cow patties’, all right? That seems safe enough.

Hmm? What’s that? That name’s already been taken? And it means what, now? Ewwwww. Well, there goes the franchise I was thinking of starting. Bleh.

Okay, so anyway, my wife starts whipping up some sort of tasty sauce to slather over these UBOs (Unidentified Beefy Objects), while I head out back to man the grill. Now, once I got through all the Transformers-type manipulation I had to do to turn the Gas Grillin’ Gorilla into Captain Charcoal, here’s what the instructions for the grill said to do:

  • Pour an even layer of charcoal into the pan, one briquet deep.
  • Light the gas burners under the charcoal and fire briquets for 10 minutes with the grill cover down.
  • Lift the grill cover and continue to fire briquets for 10 minutes with the grill cover up.
  • Turn off gas lighters and let briquets burn for 10 minutes before cooking.

Fine. Simple, right? Easy to follow, clear instructions. But no. Here’s what the instructions did not say:

  • Do not, under any circumstances, use MatchLight self-lighting charcoal, unless you want the entire apparatus to catch fire and shoot three-foot flames out the hole on the grill’s ass.

Maybe that was implied; I don’t really know. What I do know is that we did use MatchLight charcoal, we did have a fire raging inside the grill like a non-towering sort of inferno, and we did have bright yellow flames shooting out the grill’s ass like it had been on a diet of habenero Ho-Hos for the last month. This, if you’re one of those folks who has trouble connecting the dots, is where the running and flailing commenced. Oh, and the dousing, as well. This is the point at which our ‘dry run’ became more of a ‘soggy scurry’.

The good news is that there doesn’t seem to be any lasting damage to the grill. Unless you count a half-inch thick coat of soot ‘damage’. (Hey, it didn’t work in that personal harassment lawsuit some chick brought against me a couple of years ago, so I’m not going to start calling it ‘damage’ now. Of course, her hair will never really be clean ever again, but hey — no conviction, no foul, right?)

The even better news is that the coals — sorry, I just can’t type ‘briquets’ anymore; it’s bugging the shit out of me — were spared the worst of the water’s effects, and were still usable to grill our cow pieces.

The bad news is that the coals were still usable to grill our cow pieces. Or maybe the bad news is that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. (But if that’s bad news, then I’ve pretty much got a damned raincloud over my head 24/7. So I’m making that not the bad news. New rule. You want to make my continuing ignorance ‘bad news’, you get your own blog, all right?)

Anyway, the end result of our little escapade was a set of three shrunken, purply-brown sad-looking cow patt– er, circles. Sort of an accidental beef jerky. They tasted okay, but they weren’t pretty. And they were tough. Oh, so very tough, and chewy, too. Wrigley would have been proud. We could have wrapped them in comics and sold them as ‘Bazooka Beef’. It was bad, folks. Not quite as bad as those last two jokes, but still bad. Terribly, terribly bad.

Still, we ate ’em. How often do we get beef, anyway? And cooked on a grill, with a good sauce, to boot? Next to never. So we chowed down, and took some notes, and assesed the damage to the surrounding plants. We planned our next experiment for tonight, and I bought some new testicle patties for dinner. Um. Wait.

(See, that came out wrong. I have this charming habit of adding -icle to any word that sounds like test, but isn’t. Like ‘breast’. Lots of people say ‘breasticle’, right? You’ve heard that before. Well, I’m one of those people who likes to take a dead horse, beat it, bury it, dig it up, drag it through town behind my car, roll it down a hill, and beat it some more. So I go that extra mile, to really get under people’s skins. I point out ‘Resticle Stops’ on the highway. I brush my teeth with ‘Cresticle’. I look shocked and exclaim, ‘Surely you jesticle!‘ You get the idea.

But I sometimes forget that ‘test’ itself is off limits. You -icle test and you get ‘testicle’. Which is not only a real word, which confuses people, but it can also get me into some rather sticky situations. Uh, so to speak. Like eating ‘testicle patties’. Ew! So let this be a lesson to you budding smart-asses out there. If you’re pulling the same trick out there in the real world, among the heathens, ask yourself one question before applying everyone’s favorite suffix: Is the word ‘test’? If it is, then lay off, or you’ll come out of it with egg on your face. Or, you know, worse. So be careful, and do the check before you speak. You ought to be able to handle it; it’s a very simple testicle.

Damn, I did it again. I give up. I can only hope you have more luck with this than I do.)

Okay, what was I saying? Oh, right, tonight’s test.

So, anyway, we’re cooking tasty burgers tomorrow.

(Or, as I’ll say tomorrow, ‘burgers with tasticles‘. Yes, friends, I have no shame.)

So, I picked up a four-pack of patties to grill up tonight, to see whether we can do any better, or whether we’re going to have to make an enormous Wendy’s run before the barbecue. But I bought new, non-lighter-fluid-doused charcoal this afternoon as well, so I can’t imagine that it’ll be any worse than our last attempt. Still, wish us luck. I’m involved, after all, so there are any number of startling ways that this could go wrong.

Come to think of it, I’d better go get started now. It’s almost eight, and — assuming we can follow simple instructions this time — it’ll take a half an hour to get the charcoal nice and toasty. I’ll keep you posted on how things go. Or maybe I won’t, if it’s simply too embarrassing to relay. You never know. So if I don’t recount the Tale of the Tasty Burgers to you tomorrow, rest assured that something went frighteningly, shamefully haywire. And don’t ask any questions, just in case you’re right. Which means no snickering if you see me writiing my post tomorrow with soot on my ears, or singed fingers, or no eyebrows. None, you hear me? Nobody likes a damned pesticle.

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