I don’t need a calendar to tell me it’s Memorial Day tomorrow. I’ve got my mom and some good old charcoal to let me know it’s time to give a bow of thanks and salute the men and women who proudly serve in our nation’s fine military.
It’s a lovely day. So lovely, in fact, that I’ve christened it the Official Beginning of Barbequing Season. America and barbeques go together like, well, a good old baseball game and a hotdog. That’s how I see it. Maybe that’s how you see it too.
If not, you should, because, really, what’s better than ushering in the great grilling season than with family, fun and flames?
Now, if I’ve led you in any way to believe that I am a Grand Master Griller, I’m deeply sorry to disappoint. I’m not a Grand Master; heck, I’m not even the one who does the actual grilling. That’s my mother’s job, and until last year, we were reduced to having our Memorial Day feast on a Foreman Grill. The inside kind. Why? Because we just couldn’t seem to win in the battle of wits competition with our outside grill: a tiny Weber model.
The Weber may have been small (we, innocently, thought we could take it on), but it was mighty and a darn-near genius. It taunted us with its smarts for a whole two years before it finally relented and let us experience that charcoaled-taste goodness.
The first year, we couldn’t get those little charcoal pebbles to hold a flame. We both sat there on our small patio, two smart, competent, college-educated women, striking match after match. Before we knew it, we’d wasted an entire pack. So, naturally, it was time to bring out the big guns, we thought: The Aim-N-Flame. No luck. Neither the matches nor the “modern man’s” flame burned the charcoal, but it sure burned our egos a bit.
It was pathetic. Even our cave people ancestors figured out how to master fire, and they didn’t even have the luxury of the Aim-N-Flame.
We trudged back into the house that day, defeated beyond belief, and brought out the tabletop Foreman. Our egos were burned and bruised even more an hour later as we smelled a neighbor’s sizzling grill down the street. Maybe they had an even powerful Aim-N-Flame, we reasoned.
The second year, we went at it with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and determination. We thought we’d even perfected our routine. Light match. Throw match on top of charcoal. Watch beautiful orange flame spring to life.
“Do you see a flame?” my mother asked.
“Nope,” I sighed.
“What about now?” she asked again after using the lid of the grill as a shield from the wind.
I looked again. I peered into the pit, only to see those limp, lifeless charcoal bits and what could merely pass as a flame go from sizzle to fizzle faster than an ‘80s perm on prom night.
“Oh, it’s hopeless,” I said as I began to feel the full effects of heat and hunger.
And just at that moment, when I was sure all hope was lost forever, we figured it out. Well, my wise mother did, actually. The little vent on the bottom. Ooops, we’d never opened it. It was like a Christmas miracle on that warm Memorial Day. The spoils of our victory (finally!) tasted even sweeter too.
We learned some very valuable lessons that day. Barbequing is, indeed, a big business. There are grills in every size and different types of charcoal (or so I’m told). There are tongs and forks and knives – oh my!
The pros cook with wild abandon. Sadly, I’m not sure my mother or I will ever feel that sort of fire (sometimes literally!). Honestly, in the world of the Barbequing Olympics, we wouldn’t even qualify for a bronze medal; and that’s assuming we even make it past the preliminary rounds. I’m pretty sure you have to be able to actually like a grill to make it past those early rounds.
But come to think of it, we could easily take the prize in the comedy category at said Olympics. Considering my mother’s deathly fear of a grill catching fire (well, at least she now has confidence that we can actually start a fire) after the flame has long been extinguished. On an average barbequing expedition, she’ll ask me more than 20 times, “You think those coals are all burned out, don’t you?” At her most fearful, I’ve found her standing at the patio door as if she were keeping guard to make sure that Weber didn’t try to pull any monkey business on us.
So go forth tomorrow, and grill to your heart’s content. But don’t worry about us. We only grill three times a year, after all: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. What are the chances anything could go wrong, especially with my mother “on guard”?