Monday, May 16, 2005

Grillin' With Chef Vinny

With summer fast approaching I am reminded of another story involving Vinny the Guinea. (I know it doesn't seem that summer is fast, or at all approaching, but work with me on this one people.)

Back in the day, Vinny, along with half the other people we knew, was employed at a certain telemarketing firm hawking magazine subscriptions. He was good at it. At least, he was marginally better at it than all the other magazine subscription hawkers in his office. We know this because one hot sunny day, he won a prize for being the top seller of the month.

The prize was a brand spanking new propane gas grill. And he was excited, and justifiably proud. He had earned that shiny new grill and by gum, he was going to enjoy it! He called up the whole crew and invited them over his house (we all still lived with our parents back then) on a Sunday afternoon for some down-home grillin' featuring his lean, mean propane powered grilling machine.

But, like most of Vinny's grand schemes, there was a flaw in his plan. See, when you win a free propane grill, you do not always win a tank filled with propane gas. Sometimes, as in this case, you win an empty tank and your cheapskate ass has to go buy the propane for it yourself.

Everyone arrives at Vinny's house late on a Sunday afternoon and starving, only to learn that there is no propane to be had. See, all the propane sellin' joints in southwest suburban Cleveland were closed for the day. Vinny hadn't got the tank filled on Saturday because he thought it already had gas in it. When questioned what in the world would make him think the tank was filled already, he responded, "I don't know. I guess I should have checked. I mean, I guess the tank did seem like it was kind of light..."

So: It looked like a burgerless afternoon for our heroes. But hark! What is that I hear from inside the house? Why it's Vinny's mom! And she's carrying a bag of charcoal, lighter fluid, and a book of matches out to her hapless son! Hooray! The day is saved!

Vinny's mom disappeared into the house while Vinny went to work on his parents more traditional charcoal grillin' getup. The rest of us settled in around the picnic table with our beverages and conversed amongst ourselves. Soon the scent of burning charcoal and sizzling beef filled the air. And it was good.

At least it seemed to be.

The first batch of meaty, juicy goodness was set before us, and we leapt on it like a pack of ravenous dogs. I bit down into mine and let the rich flavors slide over my tongue: salt, meat, lighter fluid...wait a minute, lighter fluid? I looked around me at my fellow carnivores. Aye, everyone at the table was looking from their burger to their neighbor, back to their burger and finally, over to Vinny at the grill.

Vinny was standing in front of the grill. From our vantage we could see another batch of meat, Vinny and his spatula, and a roaring inferno of angry flames. On closer inspection, we further saw that Vince had the bottle of lighter fluid in his non-spatula wielding hand and was frantically pouring it over the hot coals. "Vince," someone finally was able to intone, "WHAT are you DOING?"

"I'm grilling, what does it look like?" he replied in confusion.

It was then that we learned Vince had never grilled over charcoal before. Apparently he had also never WATCHED anyone grill over charcoal before either, because he really and truly thought that charcoal grilling involved the use of an open flame. When the fire kept dying down to embers, Vinny, not realizing that this was by design, began pouring lighter fluid over the briquettes to keep them alight. With our meat mere inches above them. The effect was a taste as though our burgers had been marinated in the stuff. Oily and bitterly disgusting they were, and I was merely thankful that no one had felt the urge for a cigarette with their meal and gotten their face blown off.

Shame of all shames, Vinny's mom heard the shouting, and came to Vinny's rescue by taking over the grilling responsibilities and salvaging what meat had not been tainted. While we sat at the table enjoying our revised dinner entrees, John leaned forward and asked casually, "Hey Vince, do you think you could go in the house and get me, just a bowl of lighter fluid so I could DIP MY BURGER IN IT? This one just doesn't taste right."

Here's to a delicious summer everyone!


Web Swinger said...

Vinny needs to learn that the lighter fluid goes directly into the bar-b-q sauce.

Tara said...

I had a similar experience with someone grilling me a lighter fluid-flavored veggie burger. There's nothing so sickening as having lighter-fluid-tasting burps for the rest of the evening. ick.

daniel said...


Everyone needs a vinny. My version of a vinny is Peavey. Peavey is the kind of guy who will wire his own stereo system into his VW Kombi travelling across europe with no electrical knowledge whatsoever and proceed to burn said kombi down with entire set of belongings - just managing to rescue a slightly toasty passport.
(NB// it needs to be said that because PV's woman of the time was brainy is the only reason the passport was saved. Had PV been by himself it is completely without doubt that the passport would have been forgotten).
PV will fight the biggest bouncer in the club. PV will pee on the counter in a burger king if his burger takes too long.

As hard as it can be sometimes to be around them, everyone needs one.

Now as much as I love PV, and love having a beer with PV (always an entertaining night) there is no way he is allowed to stay the night at my place. He can walk home.. whatever.. but no sleeping over. Give him one night, he will take 34 nights and eat you out of house and home, sit in the couch naked and generally forget everything about personal hygiene.