An open letter to my neighbors who are very bad at grilling
June 29th, 2011
09:15 AM ET
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Dear next door neighbors,

I'm sure you are lovely and upstanding citizens, generous of spirit and cup and plate. I've not yet met you in person, but seemingly your friends come over each weekend to bask in the warm glow of your hospitality. They're surely not there for the food.

How do I know, without ever having tasted, that the things you grill have a flavor akin to scrapings from the crumb tray of Satan's toaster oven? Well, because each Saturday or Sunday afternoon since you moved in, at around five o'clock, my whippet, who's usually been basking in the dappled sunlight on the chaise by the back window suddenly stands bolt upright, sniffs furiously and flees toward the front of the apartment. Dogs, in my experience, tend to run in the direction of cooking meat, but she can hardly be blamed in this case.

You may not know this, because seemingly there's some sort of hell-borne current that guides airflow only in the direction of your house to mine, but your grill produces an acrid, evil smoke that vaults the eight foot fence between our backyards, hangs a sharp 90 degrees and roils into my kitchen until I can no longer breathe. Twice already, I have had to postpone my own dinner preparations and leave the house because the fumes - your fumes - were giving me a stabbing headache.

And you're doing all this with a gas grill. How in the world is that possible?

I have a few theories.

1. You're new to this whole grilling thing. It's okay - we all start somewhere. When the previous tenants moved out in haste (leaving a pile of 'Do Not Take!' labeled furniture on the sidewalk as well as a wireless network named 'apartment1Ahasbedbugs') you inherited their rig, minus any instructional manuals.

Bless your heart, you grew up in a grill-less society and had no idea you are actually supposed to clean the thing after each use so it doesn't become thickly caked with crap and horror. This goes for the drip pans, jets, vents and grates (nope- that doesn't count as "seasoning"; it's just gross baked-on food.) and I will happily march down to the local dollar store and lob a brass brush and a roll of paper towels over the fence if that's what it takes.

2. You're globbing on sweet, bottled barbecue sauce at the beginning, rather than daubing it on - sparingly - at the end. The sugars in that stuff burn quickly and start to smoke. It smells like brimstone and tastes even worse and - you really, truly don't realize that something is amiss here? I have the name of an excellent ear, nose and throat guy, and I'm happy to refer you.

3. You're using those awful little smoke pellets impregnated with microscopic shavings of "real wood" for an "authentic smoke flavor." Know what also brings great smoke flavor? Real wood. You can soak chunks and chips of hickory, mesquite or fruit wood in water or a bit of beer and fold them into a perforated foil pouch instead of setting toxic-smelling little chunks of chemicals on fire next to food you will be serving to people you love.

And if you're that desperate for real smoke flavor, I'd be more than happy to introduce you to the folks on the other side of my yard. They've got one of those fancy Big Green Egg smokers that I've never seen - or smelled - them using in the six summers I've lived in this apartment. They might be happy to let you come over and give it a test drive, or even cut you a sweet deal in exchange for never stinking up our side of the block again.

It would be the neighborly thing to do.



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soundoff (335 Responses)
  1. lionel messi wallpaper

    Cupcake Basket Cupcakes are popular amongst kids of all
    ages. Only few on-line bookmaker firms offer great services.
    There was an old mill still standing and Dad took me there and said, "This is where the trapper kept the bears he caught and trained them before he sold them to the circuses.

    October 10, 2014 at 4:17 am |
  2. Syd

    Give Kat a break. I live next door to a woman who loves Mesquite bbq and does it every weekend. That smell makes me puke, and it stays in my house for hours.

    She complains about my fabric softener, so I stopped using it. I wish she would bbq on the other side of the house, but she knows it bothers me so it gives her the one-up. A shame!

    September 22, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
  3. whyIdon'tgrill

    I always enjoy reading what you write for Eatocracy. Thanks.

    July 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  4. PushingBack

    This article was worth the read just to see the word WHIPPET in the article! I love whippets – best dogs ever!!!

    July 3, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I have one staring at me from under a pillow as we speak. Truly fantastic animals!

      July 3, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  5. Allie

    I'm pretty sure I live next to these guys! Only they do it with lighter fluid. Lots and lots of pungent lighter fluid fumes. We've gotten used to slapping the windows shut whenever we hear them in the back yard. They're lovely people otherwise.

    Those who suggest the author "get to know them and offer tips" are not thinking it through. Telling someone how to operate his grill is an insult worthy of a duel!

    September 6, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • whyIdon'tgrill

      HA! I WOULD be these guys! I know nothing about how to start a grill or how to cook meat. I would be a victim of any product I found at the supermarket to try to ease the process along. But I really like my neighbors, so I don't even try. I'll just wait until winter and bless them with an awesome cheeseball around the holidays.

      July 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  6. jvirn

    Whippet good. Now there's a breed of doggie dooly. You could bring the neighbors a house warming present expressing your good taste. How about a package of Smart Franks?

    July 25, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  7. oh please

    what moron thinks this is a news article..... why the hell is this linked on cnn's home?

    what a waste of freaking page space.

    July 19, 2011 at 3:01 am |
    • Matt

      I bet you can't tell chalk from cheese, dipsh it.

      July 19, 2011 at 7:19 am |
    • littlechicken

      No, this is not a news article. You are clueless. You don't even know what you are talking about. Here's some news for you. You're reading from the EATOCRACY section. News is on another page.

      July 3, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  8. I_Luv_Smoked_Meat

    You poor fool ! You must be a yankee ! Down here we southerners always get to know our neighbors! You must be one of those New Englanders who stare suspiciously at everyone around you because you are certain they are planning to steal something from you! Get over yourself and be a good nieghbor, go speak to other people and find out what they like and what they do. You might be surprised at how much fun you can have when you stop scowling at everyone! Chill out ...

    July 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Brooke

      I have found that to be absolutely untrue of Southerners. Bought a house in Nashville 10/2010 and have met two of our neighbors, both happen to be from the Midwest just like us. After four years here it's become apparent to my husband and myself that Southern hospitality is a myth.

      July 14, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • MalaDee@Brooke

      That's your basis for a myth? I'm sorry if you've had a bad experience, but don't be so quick to form an opinion. Southern hospitality is alive an well throughout the South. Maybe you and your husband smell funny.

      July 14, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
      • southern what

        Southern Hospitality? Drop a 2 dollar bill in a baptist church and watch all "holy hell" ensue as they try to figure whom dared leave a contribution.

        July 5, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  9. Sir Cadian

    White Girl Problem!

    July 11, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  10. wei lee

    She is just jealous of her neighbor having good time and with many friends....

    July 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  11. Chef Marian

    It would be no more impolite to introduce yourself to your neighbors with a nice gift of wine and a dvd on "The Joys of Grilling" than it is for them to send Vesuvius sized clouds of ash over your fence every day. Also since you are a food writer maybe you can coax them into coming over to your house for an impromptu grilling sesh? Ask them to bring they're favorites and then HAVE AT IT GIRL!!!!

    July 6, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  12. Newave

    As Bob 1 once said, "You must whippet."

    July 5, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  13. Dan J

    I would seriously hate to be your neighbor. Do you report them when their grass hasn't been mowed in eight days as well? Or how about the American flag that doesn't meet neighborhood guidelines? Instead of writing a condescending letter for the world to see, why not be an actual neighbor and invite them over and show them how its done?
    I hate these douchbags with no sense of community. It's this impersonal, progressive mentality that's actually digressive.

    July 4, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  14. chuckly

    I rarely eat bar b que because most people don't know how to do it. The point of it is to cook the food, not burn it. But 90 percent of the time someone is cooking on the grill, when it's done it's more burnt then anything, and they claim it taste so good.

    July 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  15. Uni Lecturer

    Thanks for the well written satire; it is most welcome amidst the sea of today's grammatically challenged, uninspiring contributor pieces.

    July 2, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  16. Khat

    I thought this was my neighbor writing about me at first, then started reading the details and this can't be me, lol!
    When I first got married, my father in law gave us one of those large barrel grills, and we used that grill every chance we got; our house was the place to be. We then moved to Allanta and have been living in an apartment the last few years, due tto strict laws, balcony grilling is not allowed and had to give up grilling. We recently purchased a home, and purchased a grill the day after closing (now a fancy one that's combo charcoal/gas) and we grill almost 3-4 days a week. Our neighbor even joked about us grilling everyday! Difference is...we know how to cook, grill, and no bottle sauce (without being "spiced up"). My hubby is also obsessed with cleaning the thing and all its' accessories, Hank Hill would be proud.

    July 1, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  17. David, Rochester NY

    You're missing the most obvious possibility of all. They're using the grill to send the BedBugs to hell (and having a party for friends with BedBugs to burn their's also).

    July 1, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  18. thinkman

    Are you jealous??? What joy – people that come for conversation and fun and friendship – EVERY WEEKEND. The writer is a foodie that forgot the point of grilling out is not perfection of food, but enjoyment of the company. I would love to live next to these folks – I'll bet they are the joy of the block and would be the best neighbors ever – always welcoming and always providing. My advice is to make friends with them – it will do you good.

    July 1, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  19. Ambrose Mencken

    Maybe you could arrange a trade. You could pay for the neighbors' grilling lessons, and they could pay for the grammar lessons you clearly need. This article is riddled with nonsensical sentences, e.g.: "They've got one of those fancy Big Green Egg smokers that I've never seen – or smelled – them using in the six summers I've lived in this apartment." and "How do I know, without ever having tasted, that the things you grill have a flavor akin to scrapings from the crumb tray of Satan's toaster oven?" Dropped words, misused prepositions, and awkward phrasings undermine what little humor this petty screed has to offer. And clearly the em-dash is not your friend

    Even casual humor writing needs to be well written and properly edited. CNN and you both should know this.

    June 30, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Matt

      ...fuk da ya like dat gramma...beotch!

      July 1, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • Dominique Francon

      clearly you need to relax. and either make a 'friend' real quick, or go get yourself a BOB and visit the ladies room posthaste. one or the other hon....or i fear for your nerves on the drive home.

      July 1, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • whyIdon'tgrill

      You're a little uppity and pretentious. Take a deep breath, count to 300, let it out....

      July 4, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  20. Ed G.

    So after taking someone's suggestion to Google who Kat is, I came upon another "Kat talks behind peoples back" moment.

    From twitter@kittenwithawhip,

    @kittenwithawhip it's painfully obvious these "go meet your neighbor" folks don't live in or understand NYC. #thisaintmayberry

    kittenwithawhip @jennifervcole Can you imagine if I just sorta showed up in their doorstep w/ beer: "Here. You grill stinkily. I fix you now."?

    As the person who suggested you show up with beer, I'll explain what the whole post was about. It was not a literal suggestion. It was about a way to help your neighbor and at the same time help yourself. Complaining into the ether of blogworld will accomplish nothing. What also accomplishes nothing is to say "I live in NYC, so I can't talk to my neighbors."

    But as everything I've been able to read about you, you enjoy being the judgemental type, (James Beard thing included). So go on, continue to talk about strangers behind their backs.

    June 30, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Just for the record – the #thisaintmayberry Tweet was someone commenting to me - not something I said. And – I'm addressing the whole thing shortly in a post, saying basically - you're totally right about the beer thing if you live in most of the country, but there are particular reasons that wouldn't work in NYC, and why it's sorta sad that it wouldn't. I wish it were that friendly and easy.

      My Twitter is public. That's not behind anyone's back and anyone can look. And also – my name is on everything I write. Imagine what folks would write if they did have to put their name on every word they wrote on the internet. Scary, no?

      June 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
      • Jerv@Kat

        You apparently have a good, successful thing going with Eatocracy and some folks are just plain jealous of that. Keep up the great work!

        June 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
      • hex2323

        If you have things to say, say it to their face. This passive aggressive internet rant does 3 things. 1. Makes you the hero. 2. Makes them the big bumbling stooopid. 3. Hacks the rest of us off knowing that lurking by is a shy, inexperience back yard grill wanna be thumbing her nose in the ITNERNET instead of joining the party and trying it out.

        June 30, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
      • I agree

        I love this and your other articles

        I don't know if I'm jelous, but I do enjoy them

        June 30, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Pottrick Kettle

      Yet you're high and mighty for attacking someone anonymously online yourself? Pot, meet kettle. You're no better than anyone else, "Ed G."

      July 1, 2011 at 8:17 am |
    • Matt@Ed Goon G

      I'll talk to your internet face. Trifling miscreant. Dog sh it stains mean more to me than your irrelevant opinion.

      July 1, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  21. The Pope

    Go over and talk to them about Jesus. He is the answer to all, including grilling technique.

    June 30, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  22. Rick Springfield

    I get invited to my friend's mcmansion compete with the Sam's Club corner bbq grill dealyo. First of all, my friend takes a cut of beef he paid dearly from Fischers of Meunster Texas and ruins it in no time. He thinks he's a good grill cook but he's not and he totally and completely murders the costly beef. Take a ribeye where he will turn it every 30 seconds thinking he's cooking it evenly. what he's actually doing is pressing out all the juices and the final product is worse than the worst Walmart beef cut. Why pay so much for beef from a German grocery store when he's killing it with constant turning? I guess he will never learn because nobody will tell him. He will just grow up being a bad beef cook.

    June 30, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  23. s

    Can you trust anyone to give grilling advice that has a whippit for a dog?

    June 30, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • JBJingles@s

      Why yes I can, thanks for asking.

      June 30, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  24. hex2323

    Just a thought. Other people aren't you. Other people have different ways of doing things. Having a haughty attitude because you write for CNN doesn't make your way better. I could grill circles around you, and my grill is by no means spotless. I scrape the iron, burn at 500 for 5 minutes, and I'm off to the races without one complaint. I sure hope you've never seen the inside of a restaurant kitchen...

    June 30, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  25. boka

    Don't eat meat. It's bad for you.

    June 30, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • booya

      Grill boogers instead.

      June 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  26. Aezel

    Dumbest article ever. There are a LOT of things you can do while grilling various meats in various ways that produce hellish smelling smoke but leave you with food people would kill for.

    "You're bad at grilling because your smoke smells."
    Yeah, shut up you ignorant moron.

    June 30, 2011 at 8:48 am |
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