I’m going to come right out and say it: I’m not a tactically useful human being. I may be fairly competent with a turn of phrase, but that’s about it. I can’t fix or build things— basically my skills are limited to the arts, petting cats, and doing dishes (I’m a really good dishes-doer). And, for whatever reason, I’m a pro at grilling.
But the path to becoming a grillmeister hasn’t been easy. Frankly (ha because of hot dog franks), I’ve suffered a lot for my art, and here are some of the lessons that I’ve learned. And even though restaurants are reopening, it’ll be a while before they’re more than socially-distanced voids of depression. Grilling, in my opinion, is the best way to retain a sense of culinary normalcy this summer.
So, fellow useless humans, take heed. Whether you’re cooking for yourself, your family, or your slightly expanded group of corona-free friends, you’re going to need some pointers.
You can grill literally anything: The most important rule to remember when grilling is to keep it loose. People get so stuck up on staples like burgers, hot dogs, chicken, etc. But have you ever tried grilling a frozen pizza? What about a brick of ramen? I’m not saying that I’ve tried any of these myself, but I believe that any art form can only be improved upon by taking risks, and the best artists are amateurs. Get creative, have fun. Imagine the legendary status you’d earn if you grilled a grilled cheese sandwich. I think in some countries, they would crown you as royalty for such an act.
Don’t forget the alcohol: The step toward becoming a good griller is barrelling through the self-doubt that keeps you from achieving your potential. Alcohol will allow you to do this. My advice? Don’t even turn on the gas until you’re a good three beers in. That way, no one can tell you how to do nothin’—not your family, not your neighbors, not your own sense of self-doubt — nobody! You’ll be deaf to their suggestions. If they know so much, why don’t they just throw their own barbecue?
Provide vegetarian/vegan options: I enjoy meat as much as the next unethical and non-compassionate bro, but it’s not a hill I would die on. Harping on vegans and vegan food in the year 2020 is the equivalent of being Moby re: veganism at any point in his career i.e. very annoying.
Hell yeah, salt: Even a grillmaster like me will occasionally overcook the food, which is an easy fix with salt. A pinch of salt — especially garlic salt — can hide your culinary misdeed. Salt is your accomplice. Sure, you might have burned the burger, but nobody else has to know. Just keep it cool, salt. We’ll figure this out. Nobody has to know. This can just be our little secret, salt.
[laughs nervously, pulls collar, books two tickets to Argentina — one for me, one for salt].
Keep it small: It’s always tempting to invite a lot of people to your barbecue. Even if we weren’t socially distancing, this is always a mistake. When you have more than a few select friends over, there’s always the chance that your neighbor Steve could walk by and be tempted to invite himself over and ask for his lawnmower back. Steve, can’t you see we’re trying to have a good time here? Keep walking, buddy.
Hot dogs are better than hamburgers: Sorry, they just are. I don’t make the rules.
Don’t make little screaming sounds as your food cooks: People are going to think it’s very strange if you give voices to your foods as they cook, especially if your burger is saying stuff like, aaahhh is this my punishment for an unchaste life or is this just the inevitable end for all of us?!?!
Keep your shit together: A barbecue is not the most appropriate place to let your inner demons fly. If the smell of cooking flesh suddenly reminds you of a repressed horror, I’d suggest keeping it to yourself. People will not come back to your parties if they think you’re trying to scam them for free therapy. Caveat: you don’t have to keep your shit together if you burn yourself on the grill, or if someone hurts your feelings by saying they don’t like your salty burgers.
Prepare conversation topics: Lulls in conversation can kill a barbecue faster than a swarm of bees, so make sure you have plenty to talk about. For example, you could discuss the ghosts living with you. You could talk about cold spots in your home, or the way your animal’s hair stands on end in certain rooms, or the way that blood drips from the electrical outlets. Just make sure to keep the conversation new and refreshing.
Remember that hell is just a construct of Judeo-Christian hysteria and that you should embrace the fire: Look at the fire. See how it burns. Take a sip of beer. Smile. Make small talk. But never forget the cleansing flame. Embrace your sublime power. Turn the gas up. Scorch the meat. The grill giveth. You giveth.
There you have it! Just follow the above steps and you’ll be barbecue royalty in no time.
By Kelly Davis
Photo by @metlbar
We'll begin this week's Awkward Cocktails with a warning: stuffing a bunch of bacon into a Mason jar, filling the jar with bourbon and letting it sit in the fridge for a couple of days is a terrible idea. If bacon-infused bourbon sounds tasty — and it can be — follow these directions so you don't end up embarrassing yourself.
On a much more positive note, and just in time for the warm weather, Metl Bar & Restaurant has added "Cocktail Creamery" to its name. Indeed, the Gaslamp bar's experiment in boozy ice cream to-go paid off and they're making those offerings official. An 8 ounce cup is $6 (or five cups for $25) and offerings include Elote Whiskey, Pecan Old Fashioned, White Russian Oreo and 16 others.
I'm loving the DIY cocktail videos San Diego bartenders have been putting together. This new one from Ska Bar's Elliot Mizuki shows you how to make a Cuyamaca Cooler. Mizuki writes: "As parks and trails begin to reopen, I came up with a rewarding post-hike cocktail that’s super refreshing that you can make at home with readily available ingredients" (if you're wondering what Falernum is, it's a rum-based liqueur that's a key ingredient in tiki cocktails; you can find it at BevMo or, better yet, make it yourself).
THE WEEKLY GOODS
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The Gay Agenda is not a band; they’re a force. Back when we were able to go to shows (sigh), I would try to catch them every time they performed because every Gay Agenda show is equal parts punk riot, bondage show, and fight club. However, absence makes the heart grow fonder, so this announcement of new Gay Agenda music is truly #blessed news. The band just released “Homo Riot” — first single off their forthcoming full-length, and it’s a lovely, punishing blast of textured hardcore. It also features guest vocals from The Locust’s Justin Pearson, and it’s just what the doctor ordered to wake you up from the monotony of pandemic living.
Regular readers of this newsletter will probably know my love for San Diego punks Le Saboteur, but just imagine my level of stoke-age when they released new merch designed by one of my favorite artists, Laurie Nasica. Nasica’s art has graced the cover of CityBeat, as well as the pages Black Candies—the literary horror journal that I co-edit, and her work is as bold and refined as Le Saboteur’s music. Nasica + Le Saboteur = match made in heaven.
Okay, hot shots — you think you’re so good at social media?? Let’s pretend — nay, dream — you’re the social media manager for El Monterey frozen burritos, the subpar-to-mediocre grocery store staples that have basically been keeping me alive over the past few months. Can you write a tweet funny or engaging enough to make me want to eat one of those burritos, despite knowing how meh they are? The official El Monterey twitter account only has five tweets, with the last one stating: “Effective immediately, El Monterey will discontinue production of all Chimichangas. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.” I’d say that’s a pretty low bar to clear. Use the template below.
Last week, I asked readers to come up with some new Hot Pockets flavors. Behold the brilliance.
Francis French went literal with the horror that awaits us all in every Hot Pocket.
Gary Gould’s submission is saying what we’re all thinking. Infowars’ Alex Jones would eat the hell out of this one.
Scotty Hoopes knows the hottest pocket is a pocket of Covid-infected 20-somethings fighting for their right to party. Nobody keeps PB down, not even the tyranny of public health!
Scotty also sent this gem. Lol. Imagine how many jorts died to make just one of these.
And here’s mine. Each Gott Pocket comes with a mini Gilbert Gottfried who emerges from the contents, covered in amniotic fluid, shiny like a new baby, and screams the ingredients at you.
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Julia Dixon Evans edited this post. Thanks, Julia. Go follow her on Twitter.