Well, the upside was I didn’t have to call the fire department.
Grilling is the caveman of cooking. I believe a pyromania gene is embedded in the DNA of most boys. The love affair of boy meets grill as a rite of summer is evident. I don’t know a man who doesn’t own and use a grill, and it’s my preferred method of cooking.
There was a time when I would only use charcoal. Real charcoal (none of those fake briquettes), wood chips and smoke, and if I wanted it, a fire definitely hot enough to weld. It’s a bit of a production to build a fire and maintain a temperature when coal grilling, so whenever I decided to grill, I went all in and cooked enough for my wife and me to use for meals all week. We’d freeze any extras to use as protein in salads, beans, appetizers and the like.
It was a bluebird day in early spring, and since I was working the night shift, I decided to spend my morning grilling. We had had a particularly cold winter with quite a few freezes. The St. Augustine turf was brown as was the sago palm and most of my tropical plants. A small roof covered the concrete pad of our back porch, so I wheeled my grill out onto the lawn and into the crisp, fresh air.
For a few hours, I rolled through trays of vegetables, chops and sausages, saving the chicken for last so that I could quickly shower and dress while the birds slowly cooked in the waning embers. Fifteen minutes later as I was slipping into my shoes, my wife shouted my name. Panic filled her voice.
Running downstairs and out into the backyard, I stopped for a long blink to make sure I was not hallucinating. The yard was a charred apocalypse of ash. My neighbor’s sago palm was in flames, and a low line of turf fire marched for the neighboring yard. Armed with garden hoses and my size-12 sneakers, my wife and I quickly doused the fire. Upon inspection, we discovered embers had fallen through the bottom of the grill and quickly ignited the dry, dead grass.
It was an embarrassing lesson learned that only resulted in damage to my pride. Afterwards, there was no shortage of jokes about blackening food, creating a duck blind environment in my backyard, lazy ways to cheaply weedeat, and “Oh, your yard looks great! It goes with everything.”
I’ve since traded in my messy charcoal for the beauty and ease of a propane grill, a change that has very likely made the world a much safer place. Have fun and try my recipe for Grilled Pork Tacos with Chipotle Lime Crema!
PS: My wife loves to tell this story and remind me of the cute shoes she sacrificed.