So yesterday, manual in hand and 2,593 parts laid out before me -- well, okay, considerably fewer in reality, but it felt like 2,593 -- I tackled a new "some-assembly-required" gas grill.
It is now fully operational (to the best of my knowledge) in the garage and awaiting transport to its spot on the side of the house, where, once fully loaded with a propane tank, it will provide culinary delights all summer long.
At least that's the intention.
I don't come to grilling with any kind of genetic disposition. Some families have long-standing traditions of meals outside. Not us. Dad's opinion on home-grown alfresco dining was this: "Why would I drag an entire dinner outside, eat it, and then drag everything back inside??"
We didn't even have a proper grill growing up. We had a very small hibachi. Once a year, July 4 or thereabouts, Dad would get it from the shed, place it on two cinderblocks, dump in some clunky charcoal briquettes, douse with fluid and light 'er up.
This usually coincided with my mother's July 5 birthday. The extended family of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents would arrive, and Dad spent the afternoon in a smoky haze, vainly trying to grill half a cow's worth of burgers on a cooking surface the size of two ceramic floor tiles.
When I married, I married a grill-girl. Eileen's family had a cast-iron, kettle-style briquette burner, and apparently, her Dad loved to don a festive apron ("Kiss the cook!") and pad out to the lawn in his Hush Puppies and create some culinary magic each weekend.
Color me jealous.
When it came time to address the grill question in my own home, it was an easy decision: gas!
We've had a series of gas grills over the years. When they're fresh out of the box and newly assembled, they're like a car right off the showroom. Everything gleams. Everything smells daisy-fresh. Everything works.
Eventually, though, wear and tear begin to take hold. In my experience, the starter is one of the first things to go. Before too long, I'm out there with a plate of raw meat, listening to the disappointing KLICK-KLICK-KLICK of a starter that won't light. All the while propane fumes waft about, making me dizzy.
Time for the long match and singed eyebrows.
Warming racks also crap out rather early. Then the burners. Then the grilling surfaces themselves, necessitating either replacement or creative meat positioning.
Our old grill now is an absolute fire-hazard nightmare, where the burners are so far gone that the fire basically shoots out of the holes in the cast iron shell.
Hence the new grill.
What is it about propane? Can anyone tell my why it runs out at the most inopportune time?
One of the delights of my adult life was treating my Dad to a large Father's Day dinner, cooked outside. Year after year, just as I was going to light the grill, I'd find the gas petering out.
And a dozen uncooked meat patties staring back at me.
Can't tell you how many Father's Days I spent hauling myself out of the driveway in the car, running to the hardware store before it closed, desperately seeking a last-minute refill.
Someday... I know I'll end up at the home of one of my girls for Father's Day dinner.
And her husband will casually sidle up to his gas grill.
And when I hear that familiar sound of his car careening out of the driveway, I'll know exactly what it is...