Grill o’ my DreamsOpinion
Those of you who care to check the gimme calendar you picked up at the bank or the feed store last January will notice that there is an impending holiday impending right down upon us, namely The Fourth of July, otherwise known as Independence Day. This is the most American of all the American holidays, and as a Patriotic American it is your Patriotic Duty to celebrate it to the fullest extent of the law. It is also my duty as a columnist to remind you that fireworks are best viewed with the human eye, as long as that eye is not otherwise engaged in staring at a cellular telephone.
Citizens of this country (America) have been cheerfully celebrating Independence Day ever since 1776, when this country (America) declared its independence from that other country, the one where they talk funny and drive on the wrong side of the road. Independence is a Good Thing, generally speaking, although you have to do your own plumbing.
The best way to celebrate is to have a good old-fashioned Fourth of July cookout. The cookout not only offers the opportunity to engage in the American pastime of overeating, but allows us to reflect on the hardships our forefathers endured for our country, hardships such as mosquitos and heat stroke and gas grills, not to mention botulism from potato salad that’s been sitting in the sun for four hours while Dad turns the hot dogs into inedible lumps of charcoal.
I say ‘Dad’ because we men like to pitch in and do our part on festive occasions, and give the ladies a day off. All the women have to do for the cookout is go to the grocery store and buy the hot dogs and hamburger meat and condiments and drinks and ice, make the tea and punch and potato salad and desserts, get the burgers ready to go on the grill, set up the picnic table with festive decorations, prepare the plates and cups and napkins, and do all the cleaning up afterwards. The men do all the hard work, by which I mean they cook the actual meat on the grill, although it’s a good idea for Mom to remind Dad once in a while that the actual meat is on actual fire.
If you happen to be planning such a cookout this year, it’s a good idea to give the grill a once over ahead of time, especially if it’s been sitting in the backyard unused since last July. If it’s a gas grill you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of gas in the tank. The way to do this is to rap sharply on the side of the tank with your knuckles repeatedly, starting at the top of the tank and progressing downward until you get to the bottom, or your knuckles are bleeding.
Rapping on the tank with your knuckles doesn’t actually do any good, since propane tanks are pretty thick, and there really isn’t any difference between the sound of a full tank and an empty one. So forget I mentioned the rapping thing.
To see how much propane is in the tank, you’ll need to first unhook it from the grill. Depending on how old your tank is, and how big it is, the threads on the connector nut might be left-handed. In that case you’ll want to turn the nut the opposite way from the way you would turn it if the threads were right-handed. Whichever direction that happens to be, legally.
Once you have the tank loose from the grill, pick it up and shake it, and if you hear the sound of one of the disks in your back separating from the vertebrae, you have plenty of gas. Get your wife to hook it back up, and go lie down for a while. Those tanks are heavy.
You could, of course, use the Wimp Method, and pour some really hot water over the side of the tank. It will frost up to the level of the propane, so it’s easy to tell how much is in there. I have no idea why it does that. Maybe science?
You’ll also want to check your grill for spiders and scorpions and wasp nests and snakes, which seem to be under the impression that you bought the grill to give them a place to raise their families. Such critters are easily evicted. Just light the grill and stand a safe distance away until they all leave. Get your wife to check and make sure they’re gone, and you’re ready to cook.
If your grill happens to be the charcoal variety, the best way to prepare it for your cookout is to take it to the dump and go buy a gas grill. Because of FDA regulations, all charcoal sold in the U.S. is required to be entirely non-flammable. Trust me on this.
No July Fourth cookout is complete without fireworks, so you’ll want to stock up on bottle rockets, roman candles, spleen splitters, whisker biscuits, honky dos, honky don’ts, and cherry bombs. Unfortunately, because of USDA regulations, these are also entirely non-flammable.
Happy Independence Day . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and minister in Sheridan, Arkansas who would like to thank our veterans for their service to our country. Write to him at [email protected]