Monday, July 7, 2008

Grill Hunting or How the Fourth of July Became the Fifth

Celebrating Independence Day without grilling something seems un-American. What could be better on the 4th of July than a grilled hot dog, a baseball game, and a fireworks display? Baseball wasn't in the works this year, but the grilled dogs and fireworks sure were. There was only one problem. My wife had tossed our old portable grill out with the trash. It was time for me to get a new one.

I had this family celebration all planned out. I'd buy a new grill, get some great sausages, buns, and veggies, come home, and then we'd feast, All-American style. Later, we'd play games and watch the neighborhood fireworks from our front porch. (Most of our neighbors are fireworks freaks, so we don't have to be.)

The morning of July 4th came. After a leisurely morning, I was getting ready to set out on my plan when I got a strong feeling I should go visit my father. No problem. I'd visit my dad for a few minutes, and then go on my go out on my grill finding mission on the way home. Then we'd be ready to celebrate the 4th of July properly.

Let me explain. My father's been in the hospital for the last few weeks. He's in his eighties, has Parkinson's disease as well as Alzheimer's, and had been originally admitted for a bowel obstruction. He responded fairly well to the first surgery but, his colon gave way above the original surgical site and they had to do a second surgery to repair the damage. After the second surgery he was doing better so, I was ready to celebrate Independence Day with my wife and kids, free of worry for my Dad. I just felt like I should go see him, first.

It was a really strong feeling. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we're taught to pay attention to such things. It's might be the Holy Ghost talking to you. MLW said, “Maybe you feel that way because he's on his way out, and you won't get a chance to see him again.” I couldn't deny her logic, or the feelings of the Spirit, so I left.

Leaving my wife in charge, I got in the car and headed east out of Tooele, around the north side of the Oaker mountains where they border the Great Salt Lake, and in to Salt Lake City. Driving across to the east side of the valley, I found my way to the VA hospital where my Dad was staying. It was about an hour drive. Fortunately, there wasn't much traffic, so I made good time.

When I got there, my oldest brother and his wife were also there, along with my Mom. My other brother (the middle one), had just left.

Dad was doing pretty well. His vital signs were better than the last time I'd gone to visit and my Mom seemed to be in good spirits. I stayed awhile, wished them all a Happy Independence Day, and headed back home. I had followed the promptings of the Spirit, and I felt good about it. Now, I could start my grill hunt, free of guilt.

I had seen some ads in the local paper for grills ranging anywhere from $15.00 for a really tiny stove top grill, to the huge master grill setups for nearly $1,000.00. I don't grill that much and I just couldn't justify buying the huge ones. Both cost and desire had me steering clear of the really fancy things that would get most other men drooling. I'll admit, even I was impressed by some of the bigger ones I found. “This one has a smoker box, two side burners, and a grilling surface large enough for a baby moose? Wow.”

Next came the question of gas vs. charcoal. You may remember that I was leaning to the gas side of things. After looking at a few grills that fit within my usage estimates and budget, I decided to go with a relatively small tabletop grill. I also decided to join my Neanderthal brethren and go with charcoal.

Let me explain. It turns out that yes, gas grilling is better for the environment. Normally that's something I actually care about. Yes, when it comes to grilling, I'm used to using gas. The problem was that my wife finally told me why she'd thrown out our old portable gas grill. She got tired of me waiting to clean it.

Cleaning that grill was a pain so, I'd put it off as much as I could. This time around, I wanted something easier. Not that the grill surface would easier to clean, it's the stuff under the grill surface. The charcoal will burn up most of whatever hits it, I thought. Not so with the gas grill. It just bakes the stuff onto the burner. With charcoal, the ashes get thrown away so, it's not like I have to scrub them off. Besides, the grill I got has an ash receptacle on the bottom to make it all easier.

I also liked the idea of charcoal because of some of the grilling techniques I'd been learning about. You can put an aluminum foil drip pan in with the coals for indirect grilling that you wouldn't be able to do as easily with a gas grill. A smoker box sounded like an interesting idea, too. I also have to admit I was excited by the idea of playing with fire.

Choosing a grill that would meet my needs, picking up some starter matches and charcoal, along with a couple of disposable aluminum foil roasting pans, I was set to pick up the meat. Up to this point, the adventure had cost me about $50.00, so I was pretty pleased.

Next stop was the grocery store. I picked up some really good Colosimo brand sausages (sweet Italian, red wine, and bratwurst), bakery made hot dog buns, corn on the cob, and a few other groceries.

The ingredients were set, and all was ready for the celebration. The trouble was, because of the time it took to get all that ready, when I got home it was getting later than I'd have liked and I was tired. I was also hungry and I wasn't the only one. None of us wanted to have to wait to assemble a grill, get a fire started, and experiment with charcoal for the first time. So we ordered pizza, instead. The grill would just have to wait for the next day.

The fireworks were nice, though.

When Saturday came and ... well ... remember that prompting of the Spirit I told you about? It turns out there may have been more to it than I initially realized ....

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