My husband isn’t a stereotypical guy’s guy.
Unlike some men, Rick doesn’t personally change the oil in our car. In fact, he never personally notices when anything’s even wrong with the car (although I suspect if black smoke were pouring out from under the hood or if the car itself disappeared, it might dawn on him eventually that something is amiss).
While he’s spent the past two to three years assembling various pieces of Pottery Barn furniture for our home, Rick’s not especially handy, either (but to be fair, given the fact that the instructions have all been in French, or written in English by someone who only speaks French, he hasn’t fared all that badly).
And most of the things he fixes around the house end up needing to get fixed from his fixes. Pretty much everything he touches costs us money.
Other than being a sports fanatic, Rick is really more Richie Cunningham than Fonzie, more Bob Denver than Bob Vila. Which is why it surprised me when he expressed interest in getting a grill, which we bought last weekend.
Even though there were only 90 minutes after we got home from the store before we were due to go to a movie, he started taking the grill parts out of the box immediately.
“I just want to see what’s in here,” he said.
He spread the pieces out in front of the house and then spent an hour or so organizing them into micro-piles. Then he gathered his tools and dove in headfirst. While I walked to the car to leave for the movie he still had a screwdriver in hand, determined to piece together as much of his new prized possession as possible before I drove away without him.
The next morning he was up at 7 and back outside immediately. In his pajamas and slippers, with a pot of coffee by his side, he stayed with the grill for a good five hours before it stood on its own, the first flames licking the air as sweetly as the smell of honeysuckle on a warm summer night.
He spent most of the rest of the day staring at the grill with deep pride and admiration, inspecting it from every angle, pointing out its best features — again — whenever he could get me to go outside (apparently all of its features are its best, so narrowing the list down to just a few proved to be challenging). Our neighbors (the men, anyway) stopped over one by one to pat Rick on the back and congratulate him on a grill well done (ahem).
He fired it up early in the evening for an inaugural meal of steak and shrimp. With every bite during dinner he explained his meat-marinating process, the spices used on the shrimp and how often the steaks and skewers were rotated to achieve pink perfection. The man who has a solid history of boiling mac and cheese beyond recognition had turned into a Cordon Bleu valedictorian within hours.
After dinner he voluntarily washed the dishes. I watched in awe as my husband — the same one who regularly jams the food-stuck All-Clad copper-core pots and pans in the dishwasher without giving them a rinse or a second thought — washed, scrubbed and polished by hand his LSU grill set and then gently nestled the tools back into their stainless-steel briefcase.
Two nights later he was back at the grill, delicately slicing the skin off the salmon so it could be cooked on both sides. He peeled back the husks on the corn ears to remove their silky strands and then wrapped them up again so they, too, could experience the 360-degree love on the three-burner goddess. The next meal plan was for hot dogs (not every night will be gourmet, he explained), to be boiled in a pot on the side burner and then split down the middle and grilled flat to realize the classic all-American dinner. Organic vegetarian chili, also cooked on the side burner, served with shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese, would be an optional side dish.
Then he channel-surfed his way over to Giada De Laurentiis, Bobby Flay, Paula Deen and the rest of the Food Network gang as they displayed their grilling chops (ahem, again) in South Beach, Fla. Rick took mental notes on the pork tenderloin with spicy chile-coconut tomato salad and Hawaiian beef teriyaki.
“Which do you want me to make tomorrow night? How about Sunday night? I can make the teriyaki next week, if that works for you.”
He might not be able to rebuild a carburetor or caulk a shower, but he also doesn’t spit, gamble, drink excessively (much), cuss (much) or watch hockey (thank God). And he came with me to see the “Sex and the City” movie last night and even offered to take me for a pre-show cosmopolitan (God bless him). Who needs a guy’s guy when you have one who’s just happy to grill?
More at www.meredithcarroll.com.
This column appeared in a previous edition of the Daily Press.