Monday, April 19, 2010

Botulism Burgers to Go

Yesterday's balmy spring weather put me in the mind of barbecue*, so I evicted the spiders from the Weber (no relation), gave it a good scrubbing and set about to enjoy the season's first propane-fueled cookout.

After the flame whooshed to life, I pried apart the solid pucks of turkey burgers (yeah, yeah, we bought frozen burgers--sometimes there just isn't time to create from scratch) and found this confounding direction on the package:

Cook 6 to 7 minutes on both sides.

Does that mean I should cook the burgers on both sides for a total of 6 to 7 minutes? Or should it be: "Cook 6 to 7 minutes on each side"? This isn't just an exercise in semantic navel-gazing; in this case, getting it right can spell the difference between enjoying an evenly-cooked al fresco repast and playing host to a plague of malicious pathogens.

As it turns out, I decided to err on the side of intestinal rectitude, so my buddy Sam and I flame-grilled those suckers (on both sides, for about 8 minutes each) until they begged for mercy. And a great time, with much high-fiving and lip smacking, ensued:

*Let's note here that there is some controversy about the word barbecue. Many people insist it can refer only to slow-cooked beef or pork, and that there is a distinction between barbecuing and grilling. I think these are the same people who like to point out that 12:01 a.m. is actually morning and not night.

Then there is the matter of spelling. Bryson says: "Any formal user of English who believes the word is spelled barbeque or, worse still, bar-b-q is not ready for unsupervised employment." I was mortified on reading that, as it came to mind that I had spelled it barbeque in a recent project for a client. I won't say anything if you don't.