Tess Tales 4 — The barbecue

Courtesy of gnurf.net

Courtesy of gnurf.net

When I was young I don’t remember having barbecues as we know them today. I am sure there were hot dogs speared on a branch over a campfire but my mother never “barbecued or grilled dinner.”

When I was around 12 or 13 I had a brilliant brainstorm. (Most of my brainstorms were brilliant – somewhat problematic but always brilliant!) I talked my mother into making barbecued chicken on a grill along with corn on the cob.

First we had to go out and buy a grill. We got a very cheap metal thing on 3 spindly legs but it worked. We bought charcoal and lighter fluid and thought we were good to go.

First, do you know that if you put too much lighter fluid on the charcoal briquettes you can singe your eyebrows off? I didn’t. Neither did my Mom.

Now we have the grill lit and roaring. (You don’t need eyebrows for this.) We didn’t worry about the fire department because I don’t think we had one. Our neighbor Lefty was sitting on his back stoop with his twelfth beer of the day (hey, it was only 1 p.m.!) and just watching the show.

He was a very good cook and often made wonderful dishes that he shared with the neighbors. I don’t know why we didn’t ask him how to do this.

Google hadn’t been invented yet and there was nothing in my Mother’s old cookbooks on how to grill. Do you throw the food on while the flames are roaring? Do you wait until it dies down a little? How long does it take?

Throwing caution to the wind, we put the chicken on while the fire was at full tilt. After all, chicken needs to be cooked through, right? No one was going to die of salmonella on my mother’s watch!

Poor little chicken. It gave its life for nothing.

The grill was a raging crematorium. And after a few (very few) minutes all that was left were some blackened bones. The corn was gone too.

Lefty walked over and explained that you need to let the flames die down and the briquettes get gray before you start cooking. I thought my mother was going to smack him silly.

He watched this whole production and never walked over until it was too late!

We were a resilient pair though. We ate baloney sandwiches with coleslaw (which fortunately didn’t need to be grilled). Tasted pretty good as I remember! And yes, we did continue to grill. We started slower with hot dogs so too much wouldn’t be lost.

26 thoughts on “Tess Tales 4 — The barbecue

  1. This is hilarious! Your neighbor’s reaction, or lack of a timely one, cracks me up. You were his entertainment. Your mother was a great one for just jumping in and enjoying a new adventure, wasn’t she! I could so easily visualize this cooking disaster and yet somehow thinking you both may have giggled on through! 🙂


  2. I just read your post to the team, and I could barely say the words in between crying and holding my pee from laughing. Love this story thanks for sharing!


  3. Hilarious!

    I remember when the BBQ craze came about and my brothers suggesting to Dad that he should grill “like all the other fathers do.” Now here was a man who worked, on average, 18 hour days on the farm 8 days a week … I’ll never forget the horrified look on his face when he realized they actually meant that 1) he should try and cook our supper and 2) over an open fire.

    He had none of that and we were content with weinie roasts; that was as good as the BBQs got in my family.

    🙂 MJ


    • When I was young (after the chicken massacre) we kept it really simple. My mother believed it was a whole lot easier to just cook inside and because of our ineptness, it was. I can picture your Dad. My father would not have been all that excited about a barbecue either but he had died a few years before. I don’t remember him ever cooking anything.


  4. Thanks for the charbroiled giggles, Kate.

    We camped from when I was 3 years old. I don’t remember a time before cook outs ~ hamburgers, steaks, hotdogs, fish, kabobs, and chicken.


  5. My mom use to boil the meat before cooking or grilling it. It was when my sisters and I began to cook we pleaded with her to stop…I now know what it is like to enjoy the flavor that comes from a grilled chicken or an Italian sausage.


  6. I can’t imagine broaching that task with no guidance-brave! My mom used to grill all summer long, but I mostly spent my time at the pool until I was called to dinner, so I never learned how to do it.


  7. Your story is delightful. I can see how you two went astray. We had simple little cookouts when I was a girl. Usually hamburgers + some mores for dessert. During college my mother had worked summers as a Girl Scout camp counselor so she knew all about cooking on a grill. Sometimes she even made pancakes!!


  8. Baloney sandwiches and cole slaw sounds pretty good to me! Hope you didn’t offer Lefty any. 🙂
    Funny post, especially the part about not having Google to refer to for direction. How did we ever manage?


  9. I could never get the damn grill lit. So my eyebrows were safe. Great story. I was visualizing while I was reading 🙂


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