Goodby to the Old, Smoke-Scarred Barbecue Grill--and Good Riddance : Hunchback of Notre Dame on Wheels Brings $25 at a Garage Sale, but Husband Who Had Become Expert Outdoor Cook Saddened by Loss

Times Staff Writer

My husband’s pride and joy, his black, wind-burned, smoke-scarred, rusted and battered barbecue grill is no more. And good riddance, too.

It’s gone.

I sold it at a garage sale while my husband was away on a business trip.

“Here, take it,” I told a nice young family who had eyed it for the two days of the garage sale and haggled me down to $25. “OK,” I said. “It’s yours. And don’t forget to take the two gas tanks, the automatic rotisserie, the tongs and ratty mitts. They come with it.” The man dug into his pocket, slapped $25 on the table and together the couple and their little boy carted my husband’s barbecue grill out of my garden gate and into the sunset.


How I hated that ugly thing. How happy I was to see it go. It was an eyesore brand new when my husband rolled it onto the patio two years back as a surprise (that’s when he discovered barbecue cooking). The thing lacked aesthetics. It was simply a hooded rectangular black box with a rusted white gas tank hooked onto its legs; a spare tank, also rusty, on standby duty on the floor. The tanks, leased from a U-Haul facility and connected with great effort, were like a wart on a witch’s nose. Designwise, the grill resembled the Hunchback of Notre Dame on wheels.

‘Serves a Purpose’

“Why don’t they at least design a cover for that gas tank. It does nothing for my appetite,” I said.

“It serves a purpose,” my husband said. “I would be fanning coals if it weren’t for the gas tank.” My husband is an engineer, you see.


“But it’s so ugly. It spoils the look of the garden. Couldn’t you find a pretty barbecue grill? Something like the Japanese smoke ovens? A beautiful hibachi? Something with good lines. Like the Jaguar XKE.”

“They don’t come with gas tanks,” he said. “Besides, I like this barbecue. It’s functional.”

So when he returned from his business trip, he did a double take at the vacant spot on the patio where his ugly hooded barbecue grill once had been.

“Wasn’t there a barbecue grill at that spot?” he asked.


I had hoped he wouldn’t notice.

“Yes,” I said.


“Well, what?”


“Well, what happened to it?”

“I sold it in the garage sale.”

He gave a nervous laugh.

“You sold my barbecue grill?


I shrugged. “It was ugly.”

“It was ug . . .g . . .gh . . . .” The word stuck in his throat.

A Matter of Price

“How much did you get for it?” he finally said.


“Twenty-five dollars.”

“You sold my barbecue grill for $25? But I paid . . .”

“That was two years ago. Remember, things have a way of devaluating.”

“Not by 200%, they don’t.”


“You should have seen the young couple who bought it. They were so sweet.”

“What else did you get rid of at this garage sale. You did save the gas tanks, I hope.”

“Save the gas tanks? Why would I do a thing like that? They were the first to go. “

“And the rotisserie attachment?”


I nodded.

“Tongs, too?”

“And the ratty mitts,” I added.

His eyes glazed over.


“Don’t worry, I said, “I’ll work on replacing it.”

He didn’t hear me. He staggered to his easy chair and stared into space, mumbling something about dollars, the inflated amount it would take to replace the same item today, and the wonderful barbecuing times gone by.

Some Good Moments

Come to think of it, there were some good moments over that ugly barbecue grill. My husband had become an expert on cooking butterflied lamb to perfection (cooking, not preparing it). He had learned to cook steaks rare, medium and well by placing the griddle at an angle, and cooking chicken without charring by placing them on the grill high above the coals. He knew how to steam-cook corn, grill home-grown baby eggplants and zucchini, and heat the garlic toast perfectly. He had become a time and motion expert on getting a fully barbecued meal on the table on time, and a wizard at cooking fish moist and tender, not a flake out of place.


He did all that, and now I had deprived him of pleasures of the grill.

So it was not without guilt that I studied the marketplace for a gas barbecue grill that I considered beautiful.

I’m still looking.

Built-in Barbecue Ideal


I’d personally settle for a gasless grill if the lines were good, but don’t dare bring one home. A built-in gas barbecue grill would be ideal, but that would mean tearing up my beautiful patio. I’ve looked into hibachis, Japanese smoke ovens, high-tech grill tanks, and even found a barbecue grill that sells every barbecue grill brand known to modern man. Nothing.

So the barbecue season has come and gone without the wafting smells of minted lamb, roasted eggplants and herbed chicken; without, in fact, the smells of summer.

Am I sorry now?

If you happen to spot a for-sale ad in the local throw-away paper for a gas barbecue grill with rotisserie attachment, two rusty gas tanks, tongs and a ratty mitt, let me know, will you? LUAN’S BARBECUED BUTTERFLY LAMB


1 (4 to 5-pound) leg of lamb, boned and butterflied

4 to 6 cloves garlic, split

1 bunch fresh mint

Salt, pepper


1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme


Additional sprigs of mint, optional

Lay butterflied lamb flat in shallow pan large enough hold it. Make several incisions on surface of lamb and insert split pieces of garlic into each incision. Insert mint leaf into incision, using tip of knife to push through. Rub lamb on both sides with salt and pepper. Combine oil, vinegar, oregano and thyme. Drizzle over lamb to coat. Let marinate at least 2 hours or overnight in refrigerator.

When ready to cook, prepare medium hot coals on barbecue grill. Remove lamb from marinade and lay flat on grill. Cook until done as desired, basting often with marinade remaining in pan and turning frequently to brown evenly. Place on cutting board or serving plate and garnish with mint sprigs, if desired. Makes 8 to 10 servings. HERBED BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS

1/4 cup olive oil


2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano


2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

6 boneless chicken breast halves

Salt, pepper

Sprigs of sage or rosemary, optional


Combine olive oil, garlic, basil, tarragon, oregano and sage in small bowl. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Using thumb, make a pocket under skin of each chicken breast and fill with equal amounts of herb paste. Rub any remaining herb paste over chicken breast. When ready to cook, prepare medium low coals on barbecue grill. Place chicken breasts on grill about 6 inches from heat source and cook until golden on both sides. Arrange on platter and garnish with sprigs of sage or rosemary. Makes 6 servings. GRILLED EGGPLANT

6 Japanese eggplant

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano


Salt, pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 lemon

Split eggplants in halves lengthwise. Do not peel. Sprinkle cut sides with parsley, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle both sides with oil. When ready to cook, place eggplants around edge of medium-hot grill and cook, turning frequently, about 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Do not allow to char. Place on serving platter. Squeeze lemon half over eggplants. Makes 6 servings. GRILLED BASIL TOMATOES


3 medium or large beefsteak tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves

Salt, pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil


Sprinkle cut sides of tomatoes with basil and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil. Pat down so herb adheres to surface. Place tomato halves, cut side down, around edge of barbecue grill and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Makes 6 servings. GRILLED TOMATO-BASIL BREAD

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 (1-pound) loaf French or Italian bread, split


3 medium tomatoes, diced

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped basil


Salt, pepper

Mix butter and garlic. Spread cut sides of bread with butter-garlic mixture. Place cut sides of bread on grill and cook until lightly toasted. Place toasted sides up on board or serving plate. Combine tomatoes, oil, vinegar, basil and salt and pepper to taste in bowl. Spread tomato mixture over toast. Slice and serve. Makes 6 servings.