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Going for thrills on the grill

The burger's an old standard. But plenty else does well over a hot fire.

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Grilling is as old as fire. But things have evolved since Fred and Wilma Flintstone grilled their mammoth burgers and breast of pterodactyl at get-togethers.

It's not just the food that's changed. Have you shopped for a grill lately? Some of them look like something out of Central Command, capable of launching a space shuttle. Many are the size of a Buick, and more expensive. No kidding. A perusal of the Web brought to light, among others, the Solaire 56" InfraVection Refrigerated Cart Grill. It can be yours for a toasty $l4,500. Still hungry from more? Check the Talos Outdoor Cooking Suite sold by Frontgate. At $35,000, this bad boy will burn your bank account quicker than your burgers.

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Fortunately it's not the grill that makes the cook. Some of the most memorable foods I've experienced have come from the most humble ad hoc devices. In Jamaica, jerk pork and succulent goat was grilled on a device made of old corrugated steel and a piece of chain-link fencing.

At a sunset dinner on a beach in the West Indies, local fishermen wrapped their catch in banana leaves with herbs, slices of lemon, and blistering Scotch bonnet peppers, then buried them under several inches of sand and built the fire of coconut husks on top. I don't recall what kind of fish we had that night, but never have I had a more succulent offering from the sea.

I thought manning the barbecue was pretty much an American institution until I spent some time in South Africa years ago. There, in a park near Cape Town, I encountered my first braai, the South African take on barbecue. The centerpiece was boerewors, spicy pork sausage about five feet long curled up like a watch spring, and the finale was an enormous fried ostrich egg.

Fred Flintstone would have loved it!