Posted tagged ‘charcoal’

“There is no real need for decorations when throwing a barbecue party – let the summer garden, in all its vibrant and luscious splendour, speak for itself. “

June 5, 2015

This morning is warmer than yesterday morning but still in the 50’s. We have sun and blue skies and a bit of a breeze. It’s a pretty morning. Lots for me to do today including laundry, sweeping the deck, doing some errands and painting a part of the fence.

Last night my friends came for dinner. Other than the mixed grill, everything I served was new to me. That’s taking a chance, but usually my dishes are successes so I head confidently into the unknown. Every dish from appetizers to dessert drew compliments. I was asked to share two recipes, both simple to make, and I was pleased to oblige.

Last night I used the grill for the first time this summer. There should have been fireworks and majorettes and weather warm enough for dining al fresco, but that will come soon enough.

The first barbecues I remember were hot dogs and hamburgers on a small charcoal grill. My father always did the grilling. It is a strange phenomenon that men who never touch a stove do all the outside cooking. I think it harkens back to cavemen hauling home a piece of meat to be cooked over the fire. Tending the fire was men’s work which translated over time into cooking on a grill. My father cooked the meat perfectly no matter what it was. The menu changed as I got older, and my father cooked sausages of all sorts, steak tips, pork tenderloin, chicken and one of my personal favorites, ribs. My mother made all the side dishes: potato salad was the family favorite.

My father always cooked with charcoal, but his was the light a match and toss it on the briquets type which smelled a little like chemicals when it was first lit. He waited and watched and knew exactly when to start the cooking by reading the coals. He kept a spray bottle near him in case of flares ups. He’d sit out there, have a drink or two and cook, usually by himself. His attention was all for the food, not conversation.

He’d pile the meat on a serving platter, come inside and announce dinner was served. We were ready. The salads were made, the table set, and we were hungry for that food we had smelled cooking through the opened windows. It was always kudos for the chef.

“Childhood smells of perfume and brownies.”

April 15, 2012

Today is beautiful with no breeze and the brightest sun hanging in the sky. Fern is so relaxed lying in the sun shining through the front door that I had to check to make sure she was breathing. Gracie is outside sitting in the sun. She has a favorite spot on the back side of the yard where she sprawls on the grass. When she comes in to check on me, her fur will feel hot to the touch.

Yesterday I heard dogs barking, including my own, mowers and kids playing but not today. My neighborhood is Sunday quiet as if there was reverence still left for the day.

I have favorite smells. The every day favorite smells give me a sense of comfort and continuity like the smell of coffee brewing first thing in the morning or the smell of the ocean borne this far by the wind or the fog. Other smells transport me to different times and places. Last week I smelled leaves burning and saw a man tending his small fire, rake in hand. I slowed down and lowered my window when I went by him and his leaves. All of a sudden I was a little kid again watching my father tend to his fire burning on the street beside the sidewalk. The smell of wood burning brings me back to Ghana. During the harmattan, when the mornings are chilly, the family compound behind my house had smoke whirling into the air from fires lit to keep everyone warm. The smell of that burning wood was almost sweet as it filled the air. Food in Ghana is still cooked on small, round charcoal burners, and the charcoal is still made from wood. Last summer when I smelled the cooking fires I was transported forty years in time to when I lived in a small white duplex and behind my house was a field with a family compound. I can still see and smell the smoke from that compound as it rises into the air. My mother and the smell of sugar cookies baking are forever linked in my memory.