In case you didn’t notice because you were stuck in traffic, last week was Memorial Day. Many people seem to forget that long before Memorial Day was all about barbecueing and weekend travel, the holiday was about something much more important: opening your pool. But before THAT, it was about remembering those we lost while they were serving our country in the armed forces. This is a good time to take a silent moment to remember those people and what they stood for.



It’s also a good time to make a contribution to a veteran-related organization, to remember those who actually remember those who have fallen. I did it myself, so I’m not always a cheapskate, just usually.

Those same veterans and their families have kept America safe for people like us to barbecue on Memorial Day weekend. I’m not in any way suggesting that barbecuing is safe. On the contrary, I don’t have any hard data on this, but I’m guessing that during the long weekend, whatever injuries are not caused by people pulling their hair out in traffic are caused by people who mistakenly think they know how to barbecue without harming themselves or innocent people.

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So I’m offering some tips to help start your barbecue season off with a bang that is not caused by a propane tank exploding. I actually prefer an “old-school” fire. You start with a bag of charcoal briquettes, which are made from female briqs. Most people douse the grill and surrounding patio area with lighter fluid, causing a conflagration that can be seen by satellite. My dad had this thing that looked like a cattle branding iron that plugged into the wall and sometimes lit the charcoal if you started it a couple days in advance. It also eventually branded all of us kids. Instead, get yourself a “charcoal chimney,” it’s safer and odorless, unless you left it near the catbox.

Avoid serving an undercooked hamburger. You should have a meat thermometer handy to take its temperature. You don’t have to take it in the same place my mom did when I was a kid, but the meat should be heated to at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything much hotter than that and your burger is probably running a fever, and should stay in bed with the TV on.

By the way, overcooking your burger can result in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the chemical symbol of which looks like a map of downtown Singapore, and can be carcinogenic. Singapore I mean, not the hydrocarbons. Me doing anything well done is rare, so I won’t worry about it.

I know that vegetarians will put up a fuss about how you shouldn’t eat red meat, blah, blah, blah. Well that’s why you cook it until it’s brown. You can clear a small space on the grill for vegetarians to cook their little burgers made from mushrooms or hummus or old Volkswagen parts or whatever they make them out of.

To show you how dangerous the holiday is in the first place, I was once at a Memorial Day party where fire, parents and children were all in attendance. This is a recipe for disaster, which is something I have several different recipes for. We were all toasting marshmallows, and I noticed this kid wasting a whole lot of time trying to achieve perfection, and I figured I would show him how it should be done. So I grabbed a stick, skewered one of the spongy devils and immediately immolated it.

After I blew out the flames I presented it to him with such a flourish that it vaulted off the stick and onto his arm, causing probably a second-degree burn. I hope that this kid doesn’t go through life with a permanent scar on his arm. And I further hope that if anyone asks him what the scar was from, that he comes up with a better story than that some idiot attacked him with a marshmallow.

Say hello at: And join Rick and the Trashcan Poets for some rock & roll at Lucy’s Lounge in Pleasantville on Friday, June 10!