On Special Features
After cleaning it, replacing the ignition, and installing a set of the correct-sized Flavorizer bars, I thought I’d gotten completely familiar with my new grill’s features and operation. But the first time I turned it on and loaded it up, I discovered a feature not mentioned in the manual. I can’t find it listed in any of the diagrams, but it must be there somewhere.
Gotten up to temp, there is a device in the top of the grill that causes it to emanate Waves of Awesome while you cook. KK says they’re just the visual manifestation of the unstable heated air refracting light when it hits the cooler air above the grill. But she was an English major, too, and I feel pretty confident in my Waves of Awesome observation.
Grill marks, like a cartoon hamburger. My food never had grill marks. I wanted them — otherwise, why not just bake it? I read all the books and watched the shows and tried everything:
- oiling the food
- not oiling the food
- oiling the grates
- not oiling the grates
- preheating for two and three times as long as recommended
- flipping food only onto virgin grate areas
But it never really worked, until I got my new grill.
It has cast iron grates instead of narrow stainless steel or flimsy enameled something-or-other ones. And these cast iron grates heat up and put cartoon grill marks on my food, and it doesn’t matter if I oil or not, or preheat more than 10 minutes, or flip it to any zip code or another. It’s just an essential function of this grill. This whole time, these last 8+ years, I assumed it was an essential dysfunction of my very self that I couldn’t make the grill marks. And the whole time, it wasn’t my job — it was the grill’s.
It’s like when I grew up thinking I could not make rice correctly. It used to dog me I can make all kinds of lovely, complicated creations, but the rice was always too soggy, too sticky, too scorchy. Sometimes all three at once — how is that even possible? Rice is little more than boiling water and waiting, to hear anybody else tell it.
I read all the books, asked all the grandmothers, and still threw away half-pots of really shitty rice. For years! I was lucky to find Diana Shaw’s baked method in Almost Vegetarian Entertaining, which helped a lot, but there was still a core of secret shame in my kitchen confidence.
And then we rented a house about four years ago, and this house had a gas stove. I had only ever had electric at home, and in the dorms, and in my apartments. And the first time I made rice in the new house, I decided to “just try” it on the stovetop. And it turned out beautiful. Perfect fluffy fluffles of ricey rice, like something from a magazine on perfect rice.
IT WASN’T ME.
I had done everything right all along, and malicious forces beyond my control were the only things keeping me down. The relief and discovery I felt was not entirely unlike finding the grace of authentic validation after being submerged in an abusive situation.
Things. I know I get really excited about Things, especially presents and good thrift finds. Really excited. Probably venally materialistic. Distastefully privileged. I know. My primary love language is Receiving Gifts. I would change it to something more magnanimous if I could.
But I can’t.
And I know only love and herpes are forever, and that these Things that excite me so much in the short term are mere short term things. They will not comfort me on my death bed, and they will not be my ticket to any particularly appealing afterlife, were such a thing to exist. It will be the relationships with people and animals and abstract nouns, ironically, that pave the way for anything resembling a legacy.
It’s the things we give away, somebody wise and/or famous probably once said, and not the things we acquire which mean the most. I have no quibble with that generous soul. I’d love a taste of his/her sky pie.
And deep down, I think s/he is right…because I have some awesome Things you might like to have, and if I gave them to you, I would have room for newer, evenmoreaweome stuff.