Friday, August 12, 2005
Weeds and turf
The Selectmen's list of town officials shows 33 boards and committees, not counting political parties and other citizen groups. The mission, roles and authority of the major town boards, such as the Board of Selectmen, Board of Health, and Zoning Board of Appeals are broadly defined by state laws. Other committees were organized to address a particular town need. Each committee has a more or less defined mission which defines its sphere of authority and its agenda. However, the lines of authority become more difficult to define when an issue arises that requires input from more than one board or committee. When thorny issues arise, such as the recent concern about the use of herbicides on town pathways, there are few guidelines to follow.
In the past month, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Advisory Committee (Ped/Bike), which has championed and built pathways in the center of town, proposed to the Selectmen that the herbicide Roundup be used to eradicate weeds on an overgrown section of the Bedford Road path. The Selectmen authorized a test of Roundup versus Burnout, a vinegar and citric acid formulation, on a 20-foot stretch of the path.
This provoked strong opposition from both the Board of Health (BOH) and the Carlisle Pesticide Awareness Group (CPAG), a citizen group which opposes the use of chemical pesticide and herbicides. The BOH invited all concerned boards to their July 19 meeting to discuss the issue and were appalled that Ped/Bike did not attend. Earlier, the BOH did not attend a Ped/Bide meeting to which they were invited.
It should be noted that the BOH has raised concerns about Roundup, but has not taken a position on its use. However, for the moment, the use of herbicides is not an issue as Ped/Bike has decided to remove weeds by weeding and cutting and is now focusing on selecting a better surfacing material for paths to avoid this problem in the future.
The larger question is who has the authority to decide what chemicals can be used on town property, and on whose turf the issue should be discussed. In separate conversations, town officials offered different opinions. BOH Chair Martha Bedrosian emphasized that the use of chemicals on public property must be first discussed before the BOH. Chair of the Board of Selectmen Doug Stevenson stated that the Selectmen have authority over the town's right-of-way and that they can authorize the use of EPA- and state-approved materials. Ped/Bike Chair Jack Troast hoped that other boards would join his subcommittee on pathway surfacing and maintenance.
On Tuesday, the BOS pulled rank and formed a new task force to consider pathway building and maintenance. Members of other boards, not present at this meeting, will be asked to name a representative.
This pulls the current turf issue out of the weeds, but does not solve the larger question of the relationships between boards. Should a big and urgent problem arise, there may not be time to create a committee. Perhaps the Selectmen should create a task force to sort out lines of authority and first response.
Beer and the bird
One of the great glories of living in Carlisle lies in our remove from the fashions of the big city. Nevertheless, one fashion took me in this summer.
In a recent issue of Yankee magazine I read about grilling a chicken using a can of beer. The idea was sufficiently wacky, and the article sufficiently enthusiastic, that my interest was piqued. Simply put, you open a can of beer, make a few more holes in the lid, place it on the grill, stick the chicken with its spice rub over the can, and slow-cook the thing.
Later this spring I found myself in the gift shop of Kimball's Ice Cream in Westford. There on the shelf I beheld a cookbook by the beer-can chef featured in Yankee. On the front was the maestro himself: jeans, two days' growth of beard, dark glasses, forty-ish, big grin. In a word: fashionable. I thumbed through the recipes, replaced the book, and walked away a free man.
Then the August-September issue of Cook's Country arrived at our mailbox. For me the test kitchens of Cook's Illustrated are the sine qua non of cooking. Their line of cookbooks has only one peer: Carolyn Shohet's Carolyn's Kitchen, now sadly out of print. Nevertheless, on page 18 of Cook's Country I came across "Barbecued Beer-Can Chicken: We uncover the secrets to this barbeque cook-off classic."
First, I read, "Beer-can chicken is a barbeque-circuit trick that's been around for years." So much for fashion. The Cook's photo showed a crispy critter balanced on a can, like a monarch on his throne. The king of beers indeed.
The cooks of Cook's aren't afraid to try a recipe twenty different ways to reach perfection. To avoid flare-ups that could char the chicken's skin, for example, the chef starts a charcoal fire, then adds wood chips soaked in water for 15 minutes. He divides the fire by placing a disposable aluminum pan in the middle of the grill. This catches the drippings from the chicken — "if you cook a whole chicken directly over hot coals, things can get ugly real quick." No doubt he learned that trick the hard way. Gas grill? Put the soaked wood chips in that disposable aluminum pan, place it on the grill with all burners on high for 15 minutes, until it starts to smoke. Then turn off all burners but the primary one, and seat the chicken on the cool part of the grill.
The Cook's chef opens the beer can as fully as possible to let the moisture out. The beer by itself contributes little flavor, so he adds bay leaves. He also slides his fingers between the skin and meat to loosen it up (a great tip!). He massages the skin with a spice rub — and also massages under the skin and in the cavity. Lastly, he pokes the skin all over with a skewer — to render the fat and to inject the meat with the rub's spices.
Grill first for an hour (the recipe calls for two chickens, 3 to 3-1/2 pounds). Now, the Cook's difference lies in a glaze, applied here at the hour mark: brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, hot sauce, a little more beer. Grill for another 20 minutes. Don't forget to let the bird(s) sit for 10 minutes.
For a fall classic, you can change the beer to cider.
You may come in for some criticism by the uninitiated, as you show this method off. No problem. Just give those critics a beer, then give them the bird.
© 2005 The