On Thursday I decided that I was going to barbeque. My cooking appliances consist of two gas burners and an electric hot-water pot, so my cuisine is limited to what can be either boiled or fried. Or grilled. So I thought.
Barbeque sauce wasn’t hard to find; I actually found several varieties in the supermarket, contrary to my expectations – I had thought I might need to make it myself. So far so good. Chicken, check. Barbeque sauce, check. Chicken marinading in mango juice and soy sauce (very good, I like marinading in fruit juices), check. Grill – excuse me, what?
Unfortunately, a grill is one of those things that you can’t pass over in the recipe. You can skip the salt and nuts when you make cookies, but try barbequing without a grill. It becomes slightly difficult.
I got the extremely bright idea to make one. After all, all I needed were several steel rods and an oxyacetylene torch. Which I didn’t have, so there went Plan A down the drain. Plan B: Buy, beg or steal a cooling rack, such as one turns out cakes or cookies on to cool, and use four long bolts as legs, holding them in place with washers and hex nuts. The improvisation could then be placed over the gas flame and voila! I’d have my grill.
The three supermarkets in the vicinity seem to have a disgraceful lack of cooling racks, although I’d swear I’ve seen them in at least once of the stores.
Shift to Plan C. If roasting and cake pans could be made out of aluminum, then a grill constructed of sheet aluminum, properly rolled into rods to lend structural integrity, should be able to serve my purposes, however inelegantly. This line of thinking led to the purchase of two roasting pans. On my way back to my dorm room to begin the great experiment, I stopped at a tiny hardware/appliance store for the bolts and accessories.
The owner was an older man who reminded me a lot of my grandfather. Upon hearing my request, he laid his magazine on the desk and began rummaging through the countless plastic drawers that one usually finds in a hardware store. “You want something like this?” he asked, holding up a two-inch long wood screw. His English was excellent, and there was just a hint of a British accent in his pronunciation. I’d be willing to bet that he was also a veteran.
“Yes, like that, but something flat on top, and thicker and longer, and I’d like nuts and washers with it.” I set my grocery bags on the floor next to some small electric fans and hot-water pots.
I know saying that someone has a twinkle in their eye is a standard characterization device, but he definitely had one resident in his eye. “In other words, you know exactly what you want, and this is not it.”
“Well… yes,” I admitted.
“Hmmm… maybe I have something in the back.” He led the way to the ‘back’, which was basically the other half of the shop, and started sorting through odds and ends in a toolchest, sweeping aside a multimeter and a soldering iron from the desk. In fact, the room reminded me of the garage at home, but with more electrical equipment. Eventually, he produced four four-inch long wood screws. “Will these do?” As I considered, he continued, “What exactly do you want them for?”
He started grinning as I described my dilemma and proposed solution, pulling a rack from a toaster oven to demonstrate.
“I like the way you think,” he declared. “But these won’t do, then. Ah!” He paused and began to dig through some rolls of copper wire. “I have your answer.”
I watched as he stripped the insulation from a length of his stiffest copper wire. A discussion of the suitability of the copper, due to the heat, followed, but we determined that the wire, when twisted into legs for the grill, would be sufficiently far from the flame.
The whole exchange was not quite as smooth as documented above; I was in the shop for at least an hour and a half, chatting on other topics and extolling the virtures of my major. At the conclusion, I left with a gift of copper wire in my hand and the promise to update him on my progress.
All of this goes to explain why I spent the subsequent afternoon constructing my grill, and finally testing it. But somewhere in Intro Materials and the lectures on alloy hardening, diffusion, and open hearth furnaces, Brotzen neglected to mention that thin aluminum sheeting, when exposed to direct flame, experiences failure.
There are some points at which life sucks.
This got pretty close.
Hang it all, I was going to have my barbequed chicken!
At this point I should mention that they don’t have plastic spatulas here. Instead, these indispensable household devices are constructed of slotted stainless steel.
Eureka. With a capital U.
You can probably guess the rest. Barbecuing chicken, one piece at a time, on a spatula held over a gas flame, is much more gourmet than mass-producing it in halves of steel barrels. However, it’s a temporary solution, and a permanent solution is pending, dependent on a cooling rack.
Goodnight, y’all. I’m still out here, repping the Lone Star State.
Really random quote of the day: “I quite sympathise with the rage of the English democracy against what they call the vices of the upper orders. The masses feel that drunkenness, stupidity, and immorality should be their own special property, and that if any one of us makes an ass of himself he is poaching on their preserves.” – Oscar Wilde, the Picture of Dorian Gray