Summer means barbecuing, an activity that I recently discovered is wonderful for people with absolutely nothing else going on in their lives.
I seriously thought 2013 would be the year my wife got a break from cooking between June 1 and Labor Day. She encouraged my desire to share the culinary duties, agreeing that it was time to purchase one of those pricey gas grills that all of our neighbors seem to own. I had been laboring on a rusty Weber model that I feared would buckle and collapse if I placed too many briquettes in the kettle.
Father's Day. Suddenly, I felt like an Army Ranger adorned with the latest equipment and ready to do battle with whatever pork chop, chicken breast or ear of corn came my way. I would emerge victorious.
I opened the cookbook and began perusing the directions for my first conquest: Mt. Olympus Meatball Kabobs. Why not start at the top of the mountain?
The fourth sentence caught my eye: "Place the kabobs on a baking sheet, cover and refrigerate for eight hours."
Calculating that dinner would not be served until 3 a.m. if I continued scaling Mt. Olympus, I turned a few pages until I discovered a delectable-sounding second option: Tapenade-Coated Beef Tenderloin.
"Spread tapenade on all sides of the tenderloin. Refrigerate overnight."
"And then what?" I thought. Inform my children that, instead of Cap'n Crunch for breakfast, Dad whipped up something a little meatier? Surely the book must contain something that could be prepared and eaten within a single calendar day. How about Cuban Pork Sandwiches?
"Place the pork roast in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Refrigerate for four to six hours."
Six hours? To make a sandwich? My previous record for sandwich preparation was six minutes, and that's only because I had trouble opening the peanut butter jar.
I flipped through page after page of the cookbook, searching for something, anything, that didn't require consuming a meal while I was preparing another meal. Chicken tenders, a staple of my children's diet, normally required about 15 minutes in a conventional oven, or three to five minutes in a microwave. But Cilantro Pesto Chicken Tenders? We're talking two hours of prep time. Chicken McNuggets from McDonald's never sounded so appealing.
Don't these recipe authors have kids of their own? Don't they know what it's like to try and cram something other than macaroni and cheese down their throats in between soccer practice, softball games and swim lessons? These activities only get cancelled due to inclement weather, which would free me up to spend two hours grilling acorn squash in a driving rainstorm.
Oh, how I long to sit down with my family and savor the fruits (and vegetables) of seven laborious hours spent chopping, dicing, basting, pureeing, marinating and skewering. But I don't see that happening until at least 2020, at which time both children will be living on their own and, most likely, consuming macaroni and cheese at every meal. Then, my empty day planner will allow me to slowly, carefully, prepare Beer Can Chicken, which no doubt calls for brewing your own beer prior to starting the grill.
Until then, I need BBQ delicacies that require me to "Sizzle, flip and serve" as opposed to "Put aside until next week." I need a grill that can lock in that smoky flavor in the time it takes my children to set the table. When they ask, "How long until we eat?" I don't want to reply, "As soon as Leno comes on."
Now, if you'll excuse me, I must start dinner. Does anyone know if Minute Rice tastes good on a grill?
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad," available at http://amzn.to/schwem. Visit Greg on the web at http://www.gregschwem.com.)