by Ned Hickson
The official start of the spring season is here. I know this because I received a Sears catalogue depicting what appears to be an all-American family taking time off from its busy modeling schedule to cook hamburgers on a brand new stainless steel grill large enough to accommodate an entire side of bull elk. As you would expect, children were in the yard squirting each other with water toys and running barefoot over a perfectly manicured lawn which, judging from the size of the family dog, must be self-cleaning.
Mom was nearby, well oiled and laying on a lawn chair in her bathing suit, still recovering from her recent Victoria's Secret lingerie shoot in the Bahamas.
Around our household, summer starts out a little differently. I was reminded of this yesterday as I stood in our back yard, waist-deep in weeds, swatting at a mosquito with a rusty spatula and trying to remember the last time I saw our hibachi.
Each year, I promise myself I won't begin the summer by embarrassing our entire family. And each year, a search and rescue team finds me whimpering somewhere in our back yard, surrounded by weeds, laying in a fetal position next to our lawn mower. My family has a hard time understanding this, especially since, in most cases, I'm found less than six feet from the house.
I explain not everyone is born with a keen sense of direction, and that all of this could be avoided if I just had a riding mower with Onstar -- at which point I'm sent back out to mow the lawn with an orange rope tied to my belt. This can last up to several hours or, like yesterday, less than 15 minutes, depending on how long it takes me to run over the hibachi.
While I can laugh about it now, I wasn't laughing when I was blinded by a spark so intense it flash-burned the hair off my legs. The good news is that neighbors unfortunate enough to be facing a window -- any window -- at that particular instant are expected to regain their sight within a few days.
However, this still leaves me with a partially mowed yard and what is now a two-piece hibachi set. On one hand, having separate grilling surfaces is nice, but only if the total net volume of what you're cooking is equal to, or less than, one chicken drummette.
As an example, I tried preparing hamburgers for our family. This process took just under four hours, the last 15 minutes of which was spent waiting in line for our order at Burgerville. That experience has led us to consider buying a new grill. Something I can cook multiple items on, which would therefore make it large enough to avoid running over with the lawn mower. This is particularly important to me if we go with the propane model.
Then again, it could really speed up the lawn mowing process.