One of my fondest childhood memories?
Grilling out with my dad.
When my brother Dave and I were little, we’d play on the swingset or scamper through the sprinkler or clumsily fling frisbees under our backyard pine trees while Dad worked magic on the grill. A meaty, smoky haze surrounded him as he cooked. Beef patties, flawlessly formed in my dad’s hands earlier in the day, would sear on the grill’s metal grates to charcoal-fired perfection. Bite after juicy bite, those burgers brought joy to our taste buds, our bellies, our hearts.
During our teen years, we spent many summer weekends with Dad, tromping through forested mountain trails at campsites in the wilds of North Carolina or Tennessee.
These camp-ins were big events for Volkswagen enthusiasts, who would pilot their Beetles and Buses up the winding mountain roads to compare pop-up campers, show off restored Karmann Ghias, troubleshoot engine problems….and (mostly) sit around campfires roasting marshmallows, drinking beer (or sometimes moonshine), strumming guitars, and beating bongos. My dad doesn’t really go to these events anymore, but now he’s made a career out of working on his favorite cars, so I think it’s worked out okay for him.
These summer weekends always included a feast of grilled foods: burgers and hot dogs, chicken and steaks, summer squash and corn on the cob. Even breakfast, because there were always cast-iron skillets around, just right for crisping up bacon or scrambling eggs over a fire.
When we weren’t camping with the VW hippies, we soaked up sunshine on the red-clay shores of Lake Hartwell, where the scents of sweat and sunscreen mingled with the delicious, smoky smell of whatever Dad had decided to grill that day.
Now that Dave and I are grown and Dad lives alone, he doesn’t fire up the charcoal as often as he used to.
But, just like riding a bicycle, grilling sticks with you.
On Memorial Day, Micah and I wrapped up a lovely long weekend with friends in Asheville by stopping at Dad’s for dinner.
And what a dinner it was.
Kebabs of shrimp, barbecue-marinated steak, and fresh mushrooms were cooked to moist, tender perfection on Dad’s new grill, while the skewered bell peppers retained just a bit of juicy crunch. A package of sweet Hawaiian rolls warmed nicely on the top grill rack, and our meal was rounded out by a rainbow of cool, crisp fresh veggies with dip.
Another childhood favorite–Drumstick sundae cones–made for a fittingly nostalgic dessert.
Not all dads cook, but I sure am glad mine does.
Of course, as much as we enjoyed the food Monday night, the company was infinitely better.