For the Grill of It All
That most time-honored ritual of cooking outdoors brings sizzle to the summer
Grapes. I guess grapes are exempt from my seasonal grilling frenzy. Unless you envelope them in tinfoil, the tiny orbs would most assuredly slip through the grates. Perhaps I could put them on one of those vegetable pans made for the grill? That would work. Scratch that exemption. I can grill grapes, too.
Summer is upon us and it is time for me and all of us with backyards, patios and decks from Oak Park to Oswego to break out the grill, scrub down the grates and throw anything and everything on it. I love the sweet, hickory smell of my neighbors grilling dinner, the waft of charcoal-infused meat, poultry, fish or whatever it is they are serving up over the fence or across the street.
Forget the aromatic allure of lilacs from the bushes. I prefer to smell buttered grilled corn.
The truth is I believe anything tastes better when made outside and eaten al fresco. Yes, I love the slightly charred taste of chicken grilled outdoors, the wind on my face as I relish the smoky taste of asparagus grilled alongside. But I think the lure of grilling has more to do with what I do not have to do before, during or after grilling than with the grilling itself.
A quick marinade or none at all is just fine. No serious prep work, no mixing, no coating, no basting. Slap an edible object on the grill and it will be delicious.
You can grill a pie, macaroni and cheese — even mangoes, donuts and ice cream, according to Google. Who knew?
Low maintenance and low intervention is one reason I am a grillaholic. With just about any piece of food, you can grill it and forget it. Yes, some steaks and other meats may require a mid-grill flip, but chances are you can place whatever on the grill and forget about it. I know I do. Magically, every wrapped potato is cooked evenly. And if you place a piece of fish in tinfoil, spiked with lemon and pats of butter, you are a culinary magician.
When I get the chance, I watch cooking shows that focus on grilling and everyone involved is always so happy. The guests are drinking wine, the chef is chatty, the instructions are brief. When the heat source is the star of the show, it makes sense that the methodology is not very fussy.
Then there is the clean-up, or shall I say, then there is no clean up. No pans to scrub or soak, no wiping off the stove top. Just scrubbing the grates with a copper wire brush for the next time. What I also love about eating outside on my back porch is that if I drop food, if I make a mess, it’s fine. No sweeping, no muss. The birds will do the clean-up. Or maybe the squirrels.
Grilling inspires a certain laid-back attitude for diners as well. Expectations are not as high, let’s say, as when you attempt to offer your family a complicated soufflé, or even a roast with side dishes. Last-minute invites seem to work on busy friends who can respond to a text, “I’m grilling,” with a prompt, “I’ll be over with wine.”
Growing up at our summer house in Long Beach, Indiana, my father spent most summer evenings standing next to the Weber grill on the deck turning burgers and ears of corn for the eight of us. Some of what he served was charred deeply and offered without apology.
It still tasted magnificent.
I was in the kitchen with my sisters making salad and coleslaw per my mother’s instructions, but I really wanted to be outside with him. Grilling looked thrilling.
In our house, my middle son, Brendan, took on the task of summer grilling when he was in high school and during summers home from college. He now lives and works in Columbus, Ohio, and only grills in the backyard on the weekends he comes home to visit. Brendan is an adventurous soul at the grill. He has grilled pizza.
I know some people are more fanatical than I am about having a super fancy grill; ones that have different levels and dials and are about the size of a Prius. My grill is of the lean and mean variety but it still does the job.
Mostly what I love about grilling is the laughter that surrounds the easy process. And the laughter around the table when we bite into a crunchy ear of corn or a perfect turkey burger with melted white cheddar.
Maybe it is because grilling serves as a reminder of the short window of time to enjoy the excuse to prepare a delicious meal that is easy to create and easy to share with people you love. I just may start grilling all year long.Edit Module