Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cool Guys Are Licensed To Grill

From today's Times and News-Star

This weekend marks the official start of summertime.

Time to get your grill on.

People who grill out a lot – as opposed to grilling in, though it can be done – tell me that outdoor cooking is “a way of life.” That is the actual phrase. A way of life. Not just a way of cooking.

It’s more than wearing a T-shirt that says “Licensed to Grill” or “I Turn Grills On.” It’s about discussing marinades and rubs and meat cuts. It’s about trial and error and trading secrets and keeping some. It’s about planning a weekend around ribs.

A long time ago I decided I would never reach this level. I toy with grilling but my true calling is as an eater.

Still, I keep trying. And hoping. And grilling.

The best pork chop I’ve ever eaten was at Broadmoor United Methodist Church at a guys-only weeknight supper. Fifteen years ago at least, but I see and taste it like it was yesterday. The second I picked up my fork, this thing fell apart. All is know is some bad hombre had wrapped it in tin foil and put it on a grill. Or maybe it had just been touched by an angel. I don’t know for how long it was grilled or at what temperature or with what seasonings – but it nearly made me switch denominations. Until that one-inch thick, bone-in pork chop, I’d thought Baptists had the market cornered on cooking.


What was the rest of the meal? No clue. The Griller was king. What he’d prepared was so far above and beyond that every side dish was relegated to second string. This pork chop was Adonis on a plate of 90-pound weaklings.  

Some foods make such an impression that they become the high-water mark from which all other such foods in your experience are judged. I had a cup of coffee in St. Thomas one time more than two decades ago that set the bar. Had it three or four days in a row, but no one would tell me what it was. Some Big Secret. The only cup that rivals it was at a Copeland’s restaurant seven years ago, some sort of special light brown coffee that this nice, nice lady made for us in what looked like a cereal bowl. It was to die for, and it wasn’t even cooked on a grill.

Tragically, I might never have a cup of joe as good again because I don’t know what kind of joe it was. But, the hope of the novice griller is that he can take the common piece of pork or chicken or beef and turn it into something the pros would cook. Every day, some amateur hits a hole in one. These things happen. These are the things that give us hope.

It could be that this glorious Memorial Day weekend, when we honor with special recognition those who died in America’s wars, that some person somewhere will trip the smoky light fantastic while engaging in the ordinary but fought-for All-American pastime of “grilling out.” Some everyday Joe will hit just the right temperature, catch just the right mojo, sprinkle just the right amount of whatever and grill a steak or a chicken thigh or rack of ribs for the ages. Glory! His family will carry him across the yard and inside on its shoulders. Tears will smear his eye black. He will thank Weber on ESPN. He’ll have earned his license to grill.

I hope I’m eating at his house.