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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!

A Name, a Name, a Name for Taming the Flames

Running shit up the flagpole to see who notices the smell.

So, this grill thing is really working out. I had really wondered about it, frankly. I mean, I wanted a grill for the backyard.

(What the hell else are backyards good for?)

And we needed a grill, if we were going to have a sizable housewarming barbecue (which we did, with close to thirty people showing up). But was I going to be any good at it? Would I like standing there grilling, when I’m really not a big fan of cooking? And dammit, how would I look? Would I make an ass out of myself, cooking on the lower rack when ‘indirect heat’ is called for, or using those grabby-picky-up things when I need the prongy-poky doohickey, or the flat, shovely kind of gizmo? (Yeah, obviously I’m not gonna bring up how I sound when I grill. There’s clearly no hope for me there.)

But so far, so good. Well, with respect to enjoying grilling, at least. I think I’m getting pretty good at it, and I don’t remember looking like a complete ass at any time when I’ve been out there, and no one’s called ‘party foul’ on me for using the wrong utensils, or dropping them on the ground. Or using them to scratch my crotch, or playfully smack the dog in the ass. (It’s probably a good thing that people aren’t watching too closely.)

My main concern was whether I’d like it, though. As I said, I’m not really much of a chef. Can’t be bothered, for the most part. See, I’m not really a ‘foodie’ at heart. Food’s more or less there, and I certainly like some items more than others, but I don’t wake up in the morning thinking, ‘Lasagna night! Oh, thank the gods it’s lasagna night. Oh boy oh boy oh boy, it’s lasagna day now, so lasagna night is coming right up. Be still, my widdle heart.‘ It’s just not typically on my radar.

As a matter of fact, I have a rule about cooking. Actually, I have several rules about cooking, but most of them involve the prevention and extinquishation of various fires that I’m likely to cause, so I won’t bore you with those. So, the one remaining culinary rule on my list is this:

No food — or Zeus forbid, beverage — should take me longer to prepare than it does to consume.

(I may have mentioned this before. Writing it here certainly seems familiar, but I don’t see any reference to this rule in the past couple of weeks, so it’s back in play, as far as I’m concerned. Plus, I do a lot of talking to myself, so maybe I’m just thinking of that. Who the hell knows?)

In any case, that’s my rule. And I’m a quick eater, folks. I’ll clean my plate, but I’m not gonna take all day doing it. So it shouldn’t take me all day to make, or it’s just not worth the trouble. Call it lazy, or stubborn, or bobbleheaded; I don’t care. That’s just how the brain cells that I have left choose to work, and there’s not much I can do about it at this point. So, I don’t toast my Pop-Tarts. I eat microwave dinners. I order pizza, or Chinese food.

(And yes, these often take longer to get to me than they take to eat. But I’m not cooking the whole time, so it doesn’t count. It’s all about how long it takes me to make something. And since I can spend a good solid hour peeling a potato, or boiling pasta, my self-cooked menu is rather limited.)

But, as it turns out, grilled food is different. Now, of course, I suspected that this might be so. We males seem to have a ‘grill gene’ that gives us a special affinity for all things charbroiled, and the process involved in said charbroiling. But I wasn’t sure I had that gene. My strong inclination is to get the cooking started and the eating finished as quickly as possible, so as to get back to whatever inane TV show or pointless video game (or yes, ridiculously long blog post) that I was working on beforehand. I feared that the grill would not change this ingrained behavior, and that we’d use it only for parties and cookoouts, watching it rust and ruin in the meantime.

Happily, nothing could be further from the truth. As soon as I saw the grill, that dormant gene kicked in, and a bulb snapped on over my head. *POP*Must… grill… meat. Must… marinate. Must… soak… dead… animals… in… beer… Unnnngggghh.‘ And there I lay, in the Grill Center at Lowe’s, with visions of tenderloins dancing in my head. When I came to, I was reborn a Grill Man. I had come of age.

Y’know, come to think of it, I don’t have my Grill Name yet. A few years ago, grilling on Hibachis was all the rage amongst our friends — partly for the charcoal flavor, mostly because none of them had the money to afford anything nicer — and we gave out Grill Names to all the flame-wrangling members of the tribe. There was ‘Grill Daddy‘ and ‘The Grillin’ Fool‘ and ‘The Grill Master‘. We had a ‘Grillinator‘, a ‘Grillin’ Machine‘, and ‘Grillasaurus Rex‘. Sadly, the apartment my wife and I shared had no place for a grill. So while I was steeped in the lore and the juicy flame-kissed goodness of all that is grill, I was unable to earn my Hibachi merit badge, or be awarded a Grill Name.

Now, of course, I need one. Our little wonder can do charcoal or gas, and I’ve been practicing the blackening arts for a while now. I ‘ve grilled beer-soaked brats and countless burgers. I’ve got steak and pork tenderloin and veggie skewers under my belt. And I’ve mastered the overnight-marinated Jamaican jerk chicken.

(And joke all you want about me jerkin’ my meat, there, skippy. You’d be jerkin’ yours if you tasted this chicken. This shit rocks!)

I’ve even started to experiment with rubs and sauces and indirect heat… why, I’m a grillin’ fool!

(Except that name’s already taken. Dammit!)

So, now my rule’s out the window. I’ll spend a half hour heating up the grill, or the coals, and then another half hour cooking something that I can eat in ten minutes or less. I’m finding that the key is to use the entire grill, so I don’t feel so bad about it. Eight chicken breasts take only slightly longer to grill than two, and at least that way, I can envision taking an hour in total to eat them all. Plus, the eating’s spread over two or three days, so it seems more worth the effort. These are the mind games I have to play with myself to get any sleep at night, folks. Welcome to my nightmare.

Anyway, I’m ready for my name, now. I’m considering a move to the Philippines, so I can become the ‘Grilla of Manila‘. That would make for one helluva commute for my wife to downtown Boston, though. Ooh, how ’bout something from the ‘hood? I could be ‘Grill Grill Cool J‘. Oh, except I don’t have a ‘J’ in my name anywhere. That would just lead to all sorts of annoying questions. Hmmm. ‘Grilly Madison‘? Might give the wrong impression, though it wasn’t a bad movie. ‘Mister Grill‘?

(You know, ‘Mister Grill, that’s my name; that name again is Mister Grill.’)

Okay, so the non-Simpsons fans wouldn’t get that one. The Grill Name must speak to all the people. Shit. Oh, wait. ‘Charcoal Charlie‘! Um… nah. Sounds like some fucked-up cartoon character from the ’30’s or something.

Well, hell, I don’t know. I’ll have to give this some more thought, I suppose. Maybe something will come to me while the next batch of jerk chicken is sizzling on the grill tomorrow.

(And no, I’m not gonna be the ‘Grill Jerk‘, or the ‘Jerky Griller‘, and especially not the ‘Jerky Grill Guy Who Jerkily Jerks His Jerk Meat‘. So don’t even say it. But if you have any real suggestions for a Grill Name, I’d love to hear them. Or, you know, see them, anyway. So send ’em along. Maybe I’ll find my Grill Name, after all.)

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