i noticed sandy had forgotten to take her container of lunch pasta with her to work this morning. i briefly thought about contacting her and asking if she wanted me to drop it off at the office. when kelvin finally woke up, i was surprised to see sandy following behind him. feeling under the weather, she'd decided to stay home. besides, she'd already been up since 5am, answering e-mails from coworkers back home in england.

around 12:30pm we walked to market basket to pick up some barbecue ingredients. i already had steaks (2.4 lbs. $14) and italian sausages in the fridge. i got some ground beef (2 lbs. $7) and gorgonzola blue cheese ($1.50) to make burgers while kelvin got a 5.25 lbs. slab of st.louis ribs ($15.70) and 2 lbs. of pork bellies ($8).

after we returned, sandy actually went to the office after all. she said she'd come back with LSH. kelvin watched the devil wears prada, having never seen it before. i went to star market to get more drinks (IBC root beer $3.49 4-pak) and a roll of heavy duty aluminum foil ($3) for kelvin's ribs. i also prepared the burger meat, mixing the 2 lbs. worth of 80% lean ground beef with blue cheese, chopped garlic, mustard, hot sauce, worcestershire sauce, and ground pepper, leaving in the refrigerator to cool.

around 4pm i brought out the steaks so they could warm up to room temperature. i bought these boneless sirloin rump tips on saturday, and they had already gone a little dark, no longer the bright red of fresh beef. seeing that we might not have enough hardwood lump charcoal for two burns, i rode the bike to the ace hardware store in porter square to look for charcoal. i didn't see any upstairs until i asked someone who told me they had more supplies in the basement. i found 8.8 lbs. bags of cowboy brand 100% all natural hardwood lump charcoal (what i had before). after a price check, i found out it was $9.99. i also learned that charcoal is not taxed as i went to pay.

my used copy of my journey to lhasa finally arrived today after ordering it back on december 30th from discoverbooks.com. listed as in good condition, i bought it for $4.09 with free shipping (though 26¢ for tax even though they're based in ohio). the cover is different from the edition i borrowed from the lexington library, though the content seems to be the same. the pages are yellowed due to age, definitely a used edition, but in okay shape.

at 5pm i began lighting the first batch of charcoal for cooking the ribs. kelvin read that the best way to cook the ribs is to wrap them in 2 layers of aluminum foil and throw them directly onto the charcoal. i told him that was fine, but the ribs would block the heat so we wouldn't be able to cook. so the idea was to do two batches: a first batch just to cook the ribs, a second batch for the other meats. he prepared his ribs, first trimming off any excess skin, then covering it with a spice rub he created that was a combination of salt, italian herbs, paprika, and peppers.

sandy and LSH actually arrived at the house around 5:30pm right when we just put the ribs onto the grill. we weren't expecting them until around 6:30pm, but they came early since they had nothing to do at the office. this barbecue was partly in honor of LSH, who would be returning to china for good at the end of the month. amongst kelvin, sandy, and LSH they could speak in cantonese which i didn't understand. amongst sandy, LSH, and myself we could speak mandarin which kelvin said he could understand just can't speak. and we could all converse in english, though for LSH that was the weakest of the 4 languages he spoke (4th being hakka). so throughout the evening the languages kept shifting, at any one time there could be a conversation in 3 different languages with varying degrees of understanding.

we ended up putting the ribs (3 layers of heavy duty aluminum) on the grill grate instead of directly onto the charcoal. at 6pm we flipped the ribs, at 6:30pm we took them out to cool while i began the second batch of charcoal. in hindsight, cooking the ribs in this fashion was a waste of charcoal, since the ribs could've just as easily been cooked in tin-foil in the oven. the only crucial part was the eventual grilling with barbecue sauce which comes later.

the first batch had already cooled enough by then it wasn't giving off much heat even though charcoal bits were still glowing. i think the first batch didn't burn as long because it was mostly small pieces of charcoal from the bottom of the old bag. the second batch charcoals were from the new bag and came out in large lumps that retained more heat. while we were waiting for the coals to reach grilling temperature, i also prepared the burger patties.

we were finally ready to cook the rest of the meats by 7pm, everyone coming out to stand around the barbecue. i had on a thick throwaway hooded sweatshirt so i don't get grease and ember stains on my clothes. we started with the 4 steaks rubbed with kosher salt and pepper before grilling. because these were leaner cuts compared to last time, there wasn't as much flare ups. the heat didn't seem very hot at first (i could hold my hands above the grill for 5-8 seconds easily) but as we cooked it gradually became hotter to the point where i could only hold my hands above the grill for 1-2 seconds.

once the steaks were done, we transitioned to the 8 burgers. as these were only 80% lean, there was a lot of fat which created massive flare-ups. we moved the burgers around the grill like a game to prevent them from scorching. after the burgers came the italian sausages and pork bellies. they were cooked as is, without any seasoning. the pork bellies had a lot of drippings which created flare-ups, so like the burgers, they had to be repeatedly moved around the grill to prevent them from being charred. next came the ribs: stubb's sticky sweet barbecue sauce was applied on both sides before putting on the grill. there was still some residual flare-ups from the liquid fat deposited on the charcoals, but not too bad. after both sides were grilled, we took them off the barbecue. finally it was time for the corn. kelvin grilled the corn as-is without barbecue sauce, i didn't object as he paid for them. the heat was already dying down by then (45 minutes had gone by), so we left the corn to slow cook in the low heat with the cover on.

with all the meats cooked and everyone back inside, it was time to eat. by that point it was already 8pm. we ate on the dining table with just enough seats for 4 people. the steaks were cooked to medium which i like, but a little too tough for sandy and kelvin who prefer medium-rare. the burgers on the other hand weren't cooked long enough and there was still a bit of rawness in the center like a medium-rare.

sandy had sliced up the pork bellies into nuggets; they were good as-is with a crispiness. she made a sauce using soy sauce and sugar but i didn't like it, and we didn't have any salt-pepper dipping sauce like they do in korean restaurants. the italian sausages were okay but could've used some additional time on the grill as they were still a little soft in the center. finally, there were the ribs, which kelvin was raving about (as he was also the ribmaster). they tasted good on their own - i didn't think much of the dry rub but it left a good flavor - but the sticky sweet sauce elevated the ribs even more.

we drank IBC root beers and cream sodas, as well as italian sparkling sodas. we were nearly finished eating when we finally remembered that the corns were still cooking outside. i also let them try some half sour pickles; sandy couldn't handle the taste at all, kelvin and LSH were okay with it but found it too sour.