Thursday, May 13, 2010

Burning Down the House

hound in a car
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry
My old friends' Carol and Schuyler''s son Valentino is visiting us. He's hiking the Appalachian Trail, the whole thing and having gotten to Hot Springs he decided to take a couple days off. This neatly coincided with a spate of less than perfect hiking weather and so I picked him up and brought him home. We have been showing him Asheville, more or less, or at least the part of it that is this West Asheville house full of dogs and also, Chai Pani and the hula hoopers at Pritchard Park. So we have had Indian food and home made pasta after an evening of familial wrangling over which restaurant to go to - daughter: All Miles will eat is Asian food! Me: Well, make him pick a restaurant. Daughter: He won't. Me: Fuck this, I'm coming home and making pasta - and an evening of hunting and gathering, which is what I call it when I go on strike and point out that my children are not, really, children anymore and for gods' sake somebody else should cook. Then we eat potato chips and cheese toast. Tonight, however, I decided to grill hamburgers.

There is a small hibachi in the garage; I knew this because I had seen it the other day while Charlie and I were in there, he setting mousetraps and me getting all worked up and freaked out over the necessity for said mousetraps. Charlie, when he tolerantly agreed to set the mousetraps, also said he would come over and check them every day. This is good, because I am deathly afraid of rodents of all sizes and Miles charges $2 a mouse for removal. $3 a rat and $5 for a snake or squirrel, but that's neither here nor there. Anyhow, today there was one mouse in a mousetrap which wonderful Charlie kindly disposed of and then, some hours later, it was time for me to go into the garage and find the grill and the charcoal and the lighter fluid, because I was sure that we had those things.

Well. I had to call Charlie and keep him on the phone while I wandered, or, more accurately, sidled - wandered is not exactly the right term for proceeding through my garage, which is more or less stacked to the ceiling with a fascinating variety of stuff ranging from my mother's paintings to Audrey's furniture to, somewhere, I swear, a trash bag full of clean pillowcases - and removed the grill. Then I went hunting for the charcoal but it was gone - the mice must have eaten it - and so I had to go down to the Citgo and buy more. I bought the kind that doesn't need lighter fluid,brought it home and put it in the hibachi up on the corner shelf on the deck. The covered deck, yes, the covered deck made of wood.

I burned my thumb trying to light the coals but then I got them all lit - way lit. As lit, really, as coals can be lit: to the point where there were flames shooting right up into the air and munching hungrily at the porch roof rafters.
"Gotta go!" I said brightly to Charlie, with whom I was talking on the phone, "Burning the house down! Catch you later!" and then I shouted for my daughter, who abandoned her video game to come outside and freak out with me.
"Water!" she said, and I duly filled a stock pot with water.
"But the water will make the flames all go whoosh!" I said,
"Oh god!" she said, "They will!"
"What if," I said, "We each take one handle of it and gently put it on the floor where it won't be so close to the roof?" I held out hot pads.
"No," said Audrey decidedly, eying the three foot flames exploding on every side of the hibachi, "I"m not even going to try to lift that. Get rid of the oxygen! Put the lid on!"
"I'm putting the lid on!" I shouted and did just that. Everything was calm for just about 15 seconds and we were beginning to relax when the flames exploded all around the lid, creeping through the vent holes and everywhere the lid connected to the body. "Baking soda!" I said and proceeded to sprinkle it all over the flaming hibachi. It didn't do much. "It's got to die down soon," I said hopefully and then, slowly, it did. Well, it did right up to the point where I cautiously took the lid off, at which point the accumulated, waiting fireball exploded right up towards the porch rafters again.
"Oh god!" shouted my daughter, "Just throw the water on it."
"Oh hey," said Valentino, wandering in, "What are you guys doing?"
"We're burning down the porch!" I said, "Wanna help?"

Then the flames receded, bit by bit. Miles came upstairs. "What the hell?" he said, "Why does it smell like lighter fluid in here?"
"You missed it!" said his sister, "Mom nearly burned the house down again!"
"And I missed it?" he said disappointedly, moving out onto the porch and feeling the roof. "Whoa," he said, "That's pretty damn hot."
"It'll be okay now," I said, in my role as reassuring parent. "I think I'll just have a beer."
"There vas a vhoosh," said Miles in a Russian accent, "Unt zen zere came ze fireball! Vhoosh!"

And it was okay, even though there was another bad moment when I went out to check on the burgers only to find that the hibachi was in the process of burning through the wooden shelf it was perched on. Miles and I slid a tile under it and stopped that particular disaster and I cooked stuffed burgers and my mother's potatoes of cholesterol deliciousness and then, once the burgers were off, carried the damn hibachi down to the yard to sit in the rain. Phew.The burgers were worth it, actually, they were worth it.

Stuffed Burgers
Like a pound and a half of real ground beef from Earthfare - you must get the real thing so you do not die of some horrible cheap beef disease or suffer a crisis of vegetarian conscience.
finely diced onions, about 1/4 cup or thereabouts. LIke a third of an onion.
2 jalapenos chopped not seeded, god, don't seed them.
some lime juice
Some grated mexican cheese, the kind that comes in the bag that says 4 Kinds of Mexican Cheese!
1/2 a box of Neufchatel, which is to say, slightly less fatty cream cheese. This is mostly to appease your inner dieter.

Mix the beef up with salt & pepper & worcestershire & onioins. Mix the cream cheese up with the jalapenos & lime juice & grated mexican cheese. Make 8 flat burgers. On top of four of the burgers, put a big heaping spoonful of cheese mixture. Put the other burgers on top and shape them all so no cheese is showing and you have a fattish burger with a delicious secret inside. Grill - good luck with that; you're obviously on your own here -- and then eat on Kaiser rolls with mayo and lettuce and ketchup and tomato and whatever else your heart desires. Yum, yum, yum.

1 comment:

One Girl said...

this sounds delish. i need to try but I have never lit a grill by myself. now i am really scared.