The Charcoal Grill/Gas Grill Paradigm ShiftBy Bobby Neal Winters
I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern, middle-class, small-town, quasi-suburban lifestyle. I am hung in the middle between professional university administrator and country boy. This means I still don’t water the lawn, but I don’t hang a snake on the fence to make it rain either. Mainly that’s because I haven’t killed any snakes in the yard lately, but no matter, you get my meaning.
Daddy did not charcoal. The one time Daddy did any cooking outside, he hauled up a bunch of limbs in the yard, made a bonfire, and we had a weenie roast. We didn’t use coat hangers for the hot dogs, instead we sharpened tree limbs. It left a big, black, dead spot in the yard that reminded us of the cook out for years to come.
Daddy didn’t even cook out doors much on camping trips because he didn’t take us camping. He’d grown up in a house with a dirt floor. When the family got a house with a wood floor, it wasn’t big enough for all the kids, so the boys slept in the cellar. This didn’t change until 1942 when Daddy was drafted into the army where he got his fill of camping.
He took us camping exactly once. He made a fire of limbs and boiled coffee in the bottom of a coffee can. Whenever I tell this in front of a group, invariably there is one guy who pops up.
“Oh, yes, I’ve done that. It’s not bad. You put an egg in it to settle the grounds.”
Sorry, fellow, no egg for us. You can pick most of the grounds out with your fingers and the rest will eventually work their way out from between your teeth on there own.
There is a verse in the Bible describing Jacob and Esau: The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. I figure after his time in the out of doors, Daddy wanted to follow Jacob’s example.
All of this to say, that I had to come up with the cooking out of door stuff from other sources.
Back when Jean and I first married, her folks had got us a Coleman stove for camping. We lived in student housing on the OSU campus, and we used it to make blackened chicken. We couldn’t make it in doors or it would set the smoke alarm off, so I set up the Coleman stove on the gate of my old Ford pickup and cooked it outside.
Eventually, we got a habachi and then gradually worked out way up until I got a grill big enough that I could put a whole sack of charcoal in at one time. My friend Mikey gave me one of those chimneys to start coals in and I thought I was something. It only took about an hour to get my coals going and then about 20 minutes to cook.
Damn! I was there.
Then a month or so back we did a cook out and I discovered my coal pan had rusted through. Well, no problem, I thought. Just go to Home Depot and buy a replacement when I need it.
Jean mentioned this to me last week because Lydia’s birthday is coming up, and she wanted hot dogs for her friends. So I made the Home Depot trip last Saturday.
Those of you who are wise to the ways of the world are a step ahead of me. They don’t sell replacement charcoal pans anymore--if they ever did. I found myself at Home Depot in the barbecue section at the end of the barbecue season. There around me were gas grills marked to sell.
What to do, what to do?
I bought a gas grill and spent some quality time in the out of doors putting it together. On Sunday, I turned on the gas, pressed a button, and had fire. Ten minutes later there were hot dogs.
Daddy would be proud.