I believe in grilling. I believe in the charcoaly smokiness, the crispy crunchiness, and the zebra-striped goodliness of Papa Du-wayne’s Weber Grill.
When we were kids, my brother and I would set up lounge chairs on the sticky asphalt drive-way of our Mendham, New Jersey house. My dad, in his exhausted Sperry Top-Siders and his awful grape-colored, too-short cotton shorts, meticulously crumpled yesterday’s news paper in his charcoal chimney starter as we sprawled on the nylon recliners, watching his flame blow out.
Once the flame lit, my dad would instruct us to go get the beers. For him, a Bud Lite. For us, A&W root beer. Together, sipping out of our respective cans, we would watch the sooty black blocks melt into the hot white embers. As the skies blue began to bleed with the lavenders and roses of those hot summer nights, we rested our heads on the backs of our seats and watched the Canada Geese fly in their perfected V.
Soon, we moved to Bexley, Ohio. Here, our nuclear family grill nights evolved into a crazed neighborhood gathering, something like the 4th of July scene in The Sandlot. My mom’s best friends would make the best salads and desserts, the best accompaniments to those smoky, moist hotdogs and hamburgers. The crazy thing is that I don’t even like hotdogs and hamburgers. But the smell. The smell! The smell of friendship, of laughter, of Ghost in the Graveyard and Sardines. This was the stuff for the Gods.
This past year, as a senior in college, I have now commenced the tradition of grilling with my new family—my family of friends. Sisters, we bond in our creations. We, the foodies, explore the potential variables with grilling my tongue never tasted in my childhood years. Pizza—Greek with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, red peppers, and crumbled feta. Rich with those elegant blisters, the kiss of the hot grill. With them, I celebrate beer night, too.
Food, food from the grill, food that is nurtured within the bubble of flame and metal. In the same way, I am nurtured and enriched—more flavorful within that bubbly flame of friendship. The grill draws out those veiled, subtle essences that otherwise remain hidden from the taste-buds. It brings out the best of those sultry, steamy nights.
My dad, mi padre, Papa Du-wayne nourished my brother and I with this deep appreciation for the community created when grilling out. From him, I have embraced the imperfect perfection of the charcoal’s haze, of the deep earthy scent, of the textural beauty of all that is encompassed in and around the grill.