Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I have taken a new mistress, and her name is Parilla

It was only a few short weeks ago that I was singing the praises of the cast iron skillet, and scoffing, as I do, at those chumps who cook over open flames.

Now, it seems, I am eating my flame-broiled words, and leaving my trusty skillet to languish in the cupboard.

It all started when my wife went to Target to pick up some paper towels and throat lozenges.  When she returned, she was straining under the load of this:

I was not thrilled to see her lugging this cumbersome new toy into the house, because the kids' play area, at the time, looked like this:

In our defense, about fifty percent of that stuff was given to us, and another thirty percent we bought second-hand.  So we're incredibly indulgent, but at least we're thrifty.  That's got to count for something.

In fact, the only reason my wife bought the kitchen play set was because it was fifty percent off.

It looked like a nice unit from the picture on the box.  Much sturdier and more tasteful than a lot of the garish plastic crap we tend to collect.  So why on earth was it half off?

Perhaps this had something to do with it:

I could see how someone, a lesser man, who didn't care as much about his children as I do, may have cowered in the face of such a complicated yet emasculating project.

I grumbled about the extravagance of the purchase, the precious floor space it would take up, and the amount of time it would take to assemble it.

My wife, knowing full well that I would not be able to help myself, and that all my kvetching was just a front, said, "You don't have to put it together right now."

"Well, when am I gonna do it then?"  

I sighed deeply and she shrugged.

As soon as my wife left the room, I scurried off to get a screwdriver, my reading glasses, and a bottle of wine.  It was midnight.
Two hours later, we had this:

Pound-for-pound, it's the most complicated piece of furniture I've ever assembled.  And, despite the little boy featured on the picture on the box, it's definitely the most gender-specific toy our girls have so far.  What's more, in order to accommodate it, I had to straighten up the mess in the play room, stash a bunch of the bulky plastic toys in our crowded storage area, and put the teak veneer nightstand that had accompanied me everywhere I've lived since I was a sophomore in high school out on the sidewalk to be picked up by scavengers.  

I should feel nothing but resentment toward the infernal play set. 

But look what happened when the kids came downstairs four hours later:

And yes, they are eating peas right out of the freezer for breakfast while still wearing their jammies.  That's what they requested.

The girls got the cooking play set of their dreams.  So it was only fair that I should get mine.

And sure enough, the very next day, it arrived:

Assembling the grill was almost exactly as involved as assembling the girls' kitchen play set.  Once again, I toiled in the dead of night, with my trusty halogen work light set up out on the deck.

And in the morning, this is what I beheld:

But then there was the matter of fuel.  I didn't want to mess around with cans of liquid propane, and always be anxious that we were going to run out; so we had ordered a grill that ran on natural gas.  That required running a gas line from the house out to the corner of the deck.  Like so:


It must have taken several hours to run the gas line, but they seemed like minutes to me.  Love does funny things to the time-space continuum. 

I know, I know.  I've said a million times that grilling is overrated, and that real foodies use pans.  And yet here I am slavering all over this great blast furnace like a caricature of a suburban dad accessing his inner caveman.

I can't defend my feelings here.  The heart wants what it wants.

And my heart wants perfectly grilled meat.

Meat shaped like the United States of America

Meat that still has some skeleton on it

Meat that has escaped the claws of grizzly bears

I never expected life to be so good.  Sure, I've had my share of grills in the past.  But they couldn't hold an electronic ignitor to my sweet Parilla.  It's as if she knows exactly what I want--exactly what I'm thinking.  Other grills have burned my burgers to a crisp on the outside while leaving the insides raw.  They have engulfed my chops in angry flames, and left my chicken somehow simultaneously raw and dried out.  But Parilla asks only that I gently set her dials, close her lid, and trust her to cook everything perfectly.  I haven't been disappointed.  She is an expensive mistress, to be sure, but I have no regrets.  Except, perhaps, that we didn't find each other sooner. 


As the overlaying lattice of coincidence would have it, I wrote a couple of short articles for TLC Parentables that have to do with food, sex, and gender roles.  Please read, enjoy, share, and comment upon. 'hanks.


  1. Real Men cook their brontoburgers on chunks of hardwood hewn from old-growth forests with Hades-like flames stoked in brobdingnagian cast iron contraptions that belch clouds of smoke to the heavens like some carnivore's tribute to Vulcan.
    Gas? That's what we use to start our fires.

  2. Running a gas line? I have one of those just for the purpose of hooking it up to a barbeque.. unfortunately, I don't have the knowledge, so I resort to propane... I love how one of your girls calls the other 'sissy', at that age mine did the same...

  3. When a man volunteers to do the BBQ, the following chain of events are put into motion:

    (1) The woman buys the food.
    (2) The woman makes the salad, prepares the vegetables, and makes dessert.
    (3) The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces and takes it to the man who is lounging beside the grill – beer in hand.
    (4) The woman remains outside the compulsory three metre exclusion zone where the exuberance of testosterone and other manly bonding activities can take place without the interference of the woman.

    Here comes the important part:

    More routine…
    (6) The woman goes inside to organize the plates and cutlery.
    (7) The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is looking great. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he flips the meat

    Important again:

    More routine…
    (9) The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces, and brings them to the table.
    (10) After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.

    And most important of all:
    (11) Everyone PRAISES the MAN and THANKS HIM for his cooking efforts.
    (12) The man asks the woman how she enjoyed ‘ her night off ‘, and, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there’s just no pleasing some women.

    And would you believe that the word verification that google has randomly thrown up is "dines"

    Enjoy the bbq BD.

  4. The time space contiuum is nothing compared to a man and his tools. Or seared meat. Or his woman. Wait, is that the right order?

  5. I got the few years previous model of that toy kitchen for my oldest's second birthday, and it has just been awesome. And it only took wimpy and non-power-tool using girly me two evenings to get it together....

  6. @JJ--You are correct. I'm one of those fancy lads who cares about his carbon footprint. Weak, I know.

    @KBF--The first thing you need is a grill that runs on natural gas. Or a conversion kit, which I have heard can be a pain to install.

    @Jack--That's pretty much how it goes. At other guys' houses. My wife doesn't recognize the danger involved in harnessing the power of fire, and therefore does not treat me like the mythical hero I am. She will compliment my cooking though. And then make me do the dishes.

    @Trucking--You are a true romantic!

    @Marty--That thing was seriously elaborate. No shame in doing it in two sessions.

  7. Damn! Forget the assembly plans. I feel emasculated just watching all of the the work you did.

  8. Both sweet in different ways!

  9. I got that kitchen for my oldest daughter for her third birthday..it took me 3 hours to put it together. At that time I was a single mommy and thought I was capable of putting it together. When I thought I was almost done I realized I put it together backwards. Finally finished and had extra blots. It served it's purpose for a few years. And P.S love On Sale toys!

  10. Wait...you read the directions? Are we allowed to do that? I'm going to have to consult the rule book and get back to you.

    Your true genius shines through in that you started the project at midnight when the wife was no doubt too sleepy to hang out, offering suggestions and encouragement.....and threatening to use that cast iron skillet on your headbone. At least that's what mine does. That's why I buried her skillet deep in the woods so that by the time she finds it and returns to use it on me I'll have a real good head start!

  11. Wash peas...very cute. To even out the girlishness of the kitchen you'll have to get them a play auto body shop where they can trick out their trikes.


  12. http://www.finecooking.com/item/20039/10-foods-you-thought-you-couldnt-grill I loved this, and you might too. Think about the possibilities! Grilled cake!


Don't hold back.


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