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ISSUE 121 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/16/2007

Blessed barbecue feeds masses

By Miriam Samuelson
News Editor

Friday, November 16, 2007

As the sun set Saturday evening, the sweet scent of burning charcoal wafted over Ytterboe Lawn. Passersby smelled tender sausages and hearty burgers, and a crowd of people huddled in blankets and sweatshirts around a shrine of ketchup, onions, lettuce and tomatoes. Three men worked tirelessly to feed the crowds, sweating and toiling to perfect the slight char on the side of a veggie burger. The undulating message behind the light banter of the group was clear: St. Olaf community, prepare yourself. The Ytterboe grill has been born.

The new park-style grill has been the dream of a few St. Olaf community members for quite some time. Karl Olson '08, Matt Preloger '08 and Josh Dick '09 founded a student grilling organization earlier this fall called StoGrill and collaborated with Vice President for Facilities Pete Sandberg to realize their vision of a sturdy campus grill.

"When we asked Pete Sandberg for storage space for one of our grills in the fall, he said it would be too messy, but that he had dreamed of getting a state park-type grill at St. Olaf," said Olson, president of StoGrill. "StoGrill's request for grill storage space turned out to be the catalyst for this new grill."

The new grill, installed by facilities last week, boasts three separate grilling areas on its wide surface, a rotating base to account for changes in wind direction and a concrete footing several feet deep. "No tornado or hail storm is going to take that puppy out," Olson said.

Appearing in all its grandeur without warning, the grill surprised Ytterboe residents. "One day it just showed up," said Preloger, treasurer of StoGrill. "I noticed this structure being built, and I said to myself: is this perchance the grill?" Preloger dubbed the grill both "huge" and "the perfect height."

Olson, Preloger and Dick tested the grill before the ceremony on Saturday to make sure it functioned properly. "It had a few kinks, for example, paint coming off on the meat," Preloger said. The three grillers immediately notified facilities to make sure that the paint was burned away before the introduction of the grill into the wider St. Olaf community.

Saturday's ceremony drew approximately 50 guests, including President David Anderson, Vice President for Advancement and College Relations Michael Stitsworth and Campus Pastor Bruce Benson. Matt Johnson '06 and Taylor Baggot '08 provided musical entertainment for the guests, and Benson blessed the grill before the ceremonial cutting of a red velvet ribbon. Benson said that a blessing of a grill must include "elements of seriousness and elements of humor," and devised a ritual to honor the "food, fuel, forks, and friendship" necessary for a grilling event. The group offered a solemn prayer to honor the grill and its accessories, and finally Olson, Dick and Preloger cut the sacred red ribbon with a beautiful pair of garden shears.

Olson, Dick and Preloger held the ceremony as one of their regular StoGrill events, which usually occur Fridays or Saturdays and before special events such as the fall concert. "We pulled out all the stops [for this event]," Preloger said. "We used the new grill, we had hot apple cider."

Each week, grilling enthusiasts gather to eat grilled meat and enjoy one another's company, and the christening of the Ytterboe grill marks a new era of grilling, according to the group's leaders. "Every StoGrill event ends up being a success," Olson said.

Dick described a successful grilling event as one where everyone leaves satisfied. "I think success is leaving the event knowing that you've had a lot of people there, you've had a good time and that we've provided for people," he said.

"We've had some failures as well," Dick added. "We tried bananas with caramel, chocolate and sweetened condensed milk over the grill. Not a success." Despite failed experiments, StoGrill members persevere in their passion for grilled foods and quality grilling procedures. "We get our meat from Nerstrand Meat Market," Preloger said. "We support small local businesses."

This event boasted hamburgers, veggie burgers ("we cater to vegetarians," Preloger mentioned), grilled vegetables and five types of sausage. The group charges $4 for all-you-can-eat meat. "The nice thing about charging $4 is that it covers the cost of food only, we're not using the money for anything else," Olson said.

Preparations for such events include not only the purchase of meat and additional items, but publicity as well. "We usually spend hours thinking of a meat-oriented catch phrase," Dick said. Past phrases have included "come feast on our meat" and "questions about our meat? Contact Josh." Olson stated that the group began planning for Saturday's ceremony "more than a week in advance," and that group members had been salivating over the prospect of a new grill since the beginning of the year when Sandberg mentioned it to them.

Although StoGrill is winterizing, the group leaders saw Saturday's ceremony as a solid conclusion to the fall grilling season. "There was a healthy sense of ridiculous in planning this event," Preloger said. "I mean, who blesses a grill?"

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