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12:47 AM Fri, Nov. 16th

Column: Fire up the grill and watch them scatter

What do you do well?

Me? I think I'm pretty good working the grill.

It's something of a ritual at our house. I'll announce that I'm cooking, and everyone starts rummaging through the refrigerator looking for leftovers.

The end product is not necessarily what's important - it's what you do to get there that counts.

The grill is located out the back door with a glorious western exposure. That means you are clinically insane to go there for any length of time between late May and mid-September while the sun is still out. The overhang catches the heat and boxes it in, so I'll be grilling after the sun goes down.

A lot of guesswork is involved in grilling after dark, much of it wrong. For example, if I bring in a steaming platter of burgers in July, it's a safe bet they'll be swimming in very red juice and blobs of oily fat in less than five minutes.

That's why we have a microwave, I announce as the meat-eaters in the household shudder in disgust.

Wimps.

But that same glorious western exposure/heat trap works well this time of year as long as you get done before the sun goes down.

That's where the process comes in. First you dust the meat with seasoning or marinade it. Then it's time to move directly to the outdoor cooking device. I remove the grill, then sweep the old ashes through openings onto a large, flat container that is designed in such a way as to make it impossible to dispose of the ashes neatly. So what I do is carry the container full of ashes to the side of the house and dump it.

Then it's time to pyramid the briquets, spray them liberally with fluid and light it up.

The next step is the best part. I crack open a beverage, bask in the afternoon sun - and sometimes do nothing. Or I could talk to the dog, do a puzzle or read the paper and ponder the significance of what's on the printed page.

And you can ponder with me. As a for instance, we could go to last Sunday's Miner and the Associated Press report on how an Obama presidency could impact the Castro brothers' hold on Cuba.

And I'm still pondering the opening paragraph: "Cuba's communist leadership has long cast itself as David standing up to the U.S. Goliath and the crippling force of America's punitive trade and travel embargo."

Ah, yes, if only we'd trade with Cuba - like every other nation in the world already does - things would be so much better in what is essentially North Korea with a better climate.

So I'm left to ponder if Cubans really believe that message, or if they are smart enough to figure out the reason they have such crappy, impoverished lives revolves around two Cs - Castro and communism.

But enough about that. Now let's move on to the meat of this column, in this case, a pork tenderloin I picked up in the bargain bin, and it was a bargain. It's about 10 pounds of meat shaped like a baseball bat and it only cost me $13.

Up until I bought it, I'd always figured a tenderloin was football talk for something not quite as bad as a sports hernia.

The problem is, I have no idea how to cook it. So I go online to a chat room, ask the question, and in no time I've learned all kinds of things that I promptly forget. What I do remember is "cook it for 45 minutes" and "don't pierce it while it's grilling or it will look like a baseball bat and be as dry as one."

So I let it marinade in barbecue sauce, then threw it on the grill, turning it once every 11 minutes and 15 seconds.

This gave me time to have another beverage - or maybe it was two - before I proudly brought it into the house. It still looked like a baseball bat, albeit one that had spent serious time in a roaring fire.

"That looks pretty good," my visiting son said as his hand darted into the KFC bucket. "Too bad I just ate."

Which brings us to something else I do well - handle rejection.

That, too, is part of the process.