I grew up with a stepfather who loved to barbecue. When seasons changed and I moved out in 1989, somehow I inherited his 22.5” Weber black porcelain grill. I was 19 when I first barbecued burgers and had no clue what I was doing. I have been barbecuing burgers and hot dogs for over 20 years now. Unfortunately, for most of those years I never learned much more than I knew when I was 19.
Despite my ignorance, somehow I rightly determined that charcoal—grilling with live-fire—is the only true and proper way to barbecue. Owning a fancy stainless steel gas barbecue, no matter how big, elaborate, or expensive, does not a griller make. No offense, but there really is only one way to barbecue. Convenience, schmenience.
My skills did increase a bit. I learned by trial and error and figured out a few things. I was able to cook some swell salmon when my sister sent some fresh chinook our way. Yet grilling was never more than a simple thing to do so that Wendy didn’t have to cook. I liked it, certainly, but it was mostly a summer thing to do.
About two years ago, I picked up a barbecue book and started reading in earnest. I tried a few recipes, changed the way I laid out the coals, and learned about rubs and marinade. I began to prepare foods differently, and I started cooking things that seemed strange to cook on a barbecue, like burritos and pizzas.
On Thanksgiving we barbecued a turkey which had sat in homemade brine for 21 hours. The temperature outside was 22 degrees F, but the turkey was fantastic and the friends were awesome. I think I will barbecue ham on Christmas. Seven days out, the weather prognosticators say it will be 15 degrees F, but that should be OK.
Funny thing, though. Now that I am actively trying to be good at grilling, I keep running into other men doing the same thing. Apparently both my brother’s-in-law are grilling (at least one is using gas, so he doesn’t really count). I also have a coworker who grills a bunch.
I wonder if there is something to hitting the late-30s, early-40s that causes us all to do something similar, or are we all seeking something simple, yet significant that ends up similar? Are we simply products of American suburban life, or do we just appreciate preparing good food? Maybe a bit of both. I don’t work on cars, or build houses. I live in a townhouse community, so I don’t even mow the lawn anymore. Grilling meat well and delighting in God’s gift of food sounds simply significant. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV).
I’m running now, too.