Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No. 506 – Snail

Performer: Smashing Pumpkins
Songwriter: Billy Corgan
Original Release: Gish
Year: 1991
Definitive Version: None

When Debbie and I moved in together in 1995, we took all of her stuff, of course. One thing I would have been happy to leave behind was Debbie’s grill. It had been given to her second-hand, and had the real story been that it was a dumpster-dive treasure, I would have believed it. In short, it was a piece of junk.

Well, that can be rectified. For Christmas that year, I got Debbie a brand-new Char-Broil gas grill—nothing fancy, except for the push-button ignition (at the time). You know the stereotype of guys getting their women appliances and having it go over like the Titanic? This went over like Apollo 11. She loved it.

We got rid of the piece of junk, and I assembled the new grill in the garage. The assembly manual at the time—I don’t know if it’s any different now—went out of its way to warn that any wrong move could lead to almost certain death. It was like a grownup version of Red Ryder’s BB Gun: You’ll blow yourself up!

I carefully followed the instructions, including soaping the gas line to make sure I didn’t have any leaks. Everything seemed normal, so I wheeled the grill to the patio, and, with Debbie ready to call 911, pressed the ignition. One click, two clicks, three clicks, and the flame ignited blue and uniform.

I’m certain the maiden voyage consisted of Omaha Steaks fliet mignons, because that was Debbie’s favorite brand. She knew it from when she lived in Omaha, and Omaha Steaks recently opened a store in Worthington.

Omaha Steaks became an almost exclusive grill item—particularly after we moved into our house, which, as I mentioned, was tailor-made for cookouts. For a long time, Debbie bought filets. One day, she was talked into buying Sirloin Supremes by a store clerk. We tried them and were instant converts. We didn’t buy filets again unless the store had a special promotion. (I still buy Sirloin Supremes today when I can get them for less than a buck an ounce.)

Although it was Debbie’s present, there was no question who was in charge of the grill. Before long, I had steaks down to a science. I could look through the window from the deck to see the VCR and time everything just right. It got so I stopped ordering steak when we went out, because, well, I could make my own at home that was just as good. (I don’t think I ordered steak again at a restaurant until long after I moved to Chicago in 2005.)

After awhile, I got more creative. After we went to Bravo one night and watched how the cooks made the restaurant’s excellent mushroom appetizer on the grill, I tried it at home. I didn’t have the pepper aioli that Bravo served with it, but it still was tender and juicy, and an excellent accompaniment to steak.

My most successful recipe, however, was beef kebabs. We bought some premade at Meijer that were loaded with mushrooms, onions and peppers, and I used a mesquite marinade mix. They were good, but I could make my own kebabs and use red and yellow peppers instead of the underripe green ones.

After we bought our upscale outdoor furniture in summer 1997, the first outdoor cookout we had—the first one we had as a couple, now that I think about it—featured my mesquite kebabs. We invited Scott and Shani up from Cincinnati. I made the kebabs and some couscous, opened a good one (Spottswoode, I bet), and we spent an excellent summer night with good music wafting out from the living room. (This song became a later regular cookout play.)

And with that, the outdoor banquet hall was officially open.

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