Through the Fire

Getting here was dangerous, but delicious.

Yesterday was a pretty uneventful Sunday–exactly the way I like it–until my grill registered a temperature of almost 700 degrees. This meant something was wrong. Very wrong.

It was a typical weekend grilling session, except for the fact that I was trying out cedar wood planks for salmon for the first time. I had placed the cedar planks in a pan of water a few hours before, soaking on one side, then the other. I seasoned the fish and cut it into chunks that would not hang over the sides of the planks. I heated the grill to a cozy 300 degrees, and I had intended to let the fish cook on a slightly lower temperature for a little longer than usual, to pick up the cedar smoke and to finish up cooked but tender.

The way they were. (The too-shallow pan was the problem. Let this be a lesson to you…)

I closed the grill lid and went back inside to begin prepping other things I would eat for the week. I peeped outside periodically to see how the grill was doing. At first, there was smoke rising from the back. The temperature was still at 300 degrees, and it was just typical smoke. I checked back later, and the temperature climbed to 500 degrees, then about 650, 675, with flames shooting out the back of the grill and a growing wall of flames surrounding my lovely salmon fillets.

I panicked, but I knew something needed to be done. I turned off the grill and the propane tank. I went to get utensils to move the fish from the fiery center of the grill (fortunately, only one of three burners had been on.) I went to get a mixing bowl full of water to douse the flames, as my husband wisely advised. And in a few minutes, the raging conflagration that was quietly contained under the heavy grill lid was no more. (The fish? I’m happy to report that it was salvageable. Most of it was cooked perfectly, with the wood directly under the fish still intact. The thickest pieces were good with 25 seconds in the microwave later. The cedar taste was delicious.with the simple salt, pepper, garlic seasoning. The planks? Ashes to ashes, may their soggy remnants rest in peace. It looks like I should’ve immersed them in more water, weighing them down with something that would’ve kept them completely submerged for the full soaking time. I had used a shallow cookie sheet, for which I had to turn the wood over to soak both sides.)

I was a little shaken, but a lot ashamed. Ashamed of the fact that I caused a fire. Ashamed of the fact that my first plank grilling experience literally went up in flames. I felt embarrassed that I wasn’t able to pull off this simple cooking technique, and I was relieved that none of my neighbors were outdoors to see this mishap.

This event would’ve, in the past, gotten me down and stayed with me for the rest of the day and maybe later. And it would’ve been survived with the help of an array of comfort foods. But I felt my feelings and let them go. (I also have to thank my husband for acknowledging that my actions after being greeted by the wall of flames was the best anyone could’ve done in that situation.) And I stayed the course, in the pursuit of a responsible attitude and responsible healthy eating habits. I came out of the fire mentally unscathed, a big win for me.


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