Saturday, August 21, 2010

Don't Put Out That Duck

Our friend came up from Florida to visit. We had been reminiscing about our trip to Bali, so I made Babek Betutu (Balinese duck). I've made this dish numerous times although this particular time became an event.

The recipe I use calls for grilling a whole bird over coconut husks. Well, I don't have coconut husks, so I did the next best thing and broke out the old fashioned charcoal grill. I put it in the driveway a safe distance from anything flammable, filled it with hardwood then fired it up. After it settled down, the duck went on the grill and I went in the house. Ducks are really fatty. When it gets going, smoke billows profusely and flames shoot up. And then there's the stench. Oh, the reeking, foul smell of burning duck fat. There's nothing like it.

While I was in the kitchen doing my prep work, I heard the fire siren go off. I thought nothing of it. We live one block from the fire station, so it's a normal enough occurrence. A few minutes later, in the midst of chopping shallots, I heard the trucks blaring their horns so loud, it sounded like they were in the front lawn. I looked out the dining room window. Burly men were jumping off the truck and running up the driveway like bats out of hell.

Uh, that was my driveway.

They were carrying hoses.

OMG.....the duck.

Like a shot, I ran through the house and out the door. "Don't put out the duck," I shouted. Smoke blinded me momentarily. I headed toward the street.

These men ran straight toward me, carrying a giant hose, like the devil was after them.

Through the toxic cloud, I ran to meet them. "Don't put out my duck!" I shouted, arms waving in the air like a crazed chicken. "Please, don't put out my duck!"

They stopped short, looked at me like an asylum escapee, and asked, "what do you mean..." the giant nozzle on the hose lowered slightly, "...don't put out your duck?" Then he noticed the tiny hibachi sitting on the pavement. It looked really bad. Six foot flames shot into the air and acrid smoke billowed everywhere.

They had to check out this troublesome bird. Oblivious to all that stinking smoke pouring into their eyes, five men stood as if hypnotized, staring at a three pound bird on an eighteen inch hibachi. Flames licked their fire suits.

I answered all their questions. Yes, my person is fine. No, nothing is wrong in the house. No, I didn't know who called 911. No, no one else is home. Yes, it's only dinner causing such a ruckus. Yes, the duck is absolutely fine. Yes, they can come to dinner if they want, but I would have to grill a second duck.

At one point the flames got so bad, one of the guys asked me if I needed his assistance getting it off the grill. "After all," he said laughing, "I'm dressed for it."

As it ended up, a neighbor saw flames reflecting in the upstairs window, smelled smoke, saw no cars in the driveway and called 911. She felt bad for raising a false alarm. She never thought someone would be grilling in the snow. We both apologized for dragging the volunteer firemen out in the cold.

They said a false alarm is much better than no alarm. No worries. Hope we don't see each other again. Heh.

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