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Burnt offerings
July 7, 2017
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by Ivan Raconteur

On a fine day, when the breeze is right, there is no mistaking the fact we are in prime grilling season.

The world seems to be divided into two groups – those who grill, and those who don’t.

I haven’t done any research on this, so I don’t know if there is some sort of genetic difference that separates the two groups.

In my case, I think it is mostly a matter of my early training that launched me in the path of being a non-griller.

We did not have a grill at the house, and I don’t recall ever seeing my old man grill anything, so I didn’t get a chance to learn that way.

When I was a kid, the only time I remember us doing any kind of outdoor cooking was when we went over the river and through the woods (literally) to visit my grandmother.

She had a sort of primitive, rusty metal box out back that served as a fire pit.

We were forced to skewer hot dogs on long, metal sticks and roast them over the coals.

That might have been OK, except that everyone insisted that the only way it was any good was to wait until it was completely charred.

I have never been a fan of burnt offerings, and torching food until it was black and crusty did not add to its appeal for me.

They were the same about marshmallows. I could never see the point of burning something beyond recognition, but that seemed to be the only way my family liked it.

This was not technically grilling, but all of my early experiences with dinner on the grill involved meals that looked like something out of the Book of Leviticus.

Burnt offerings may have their place, but that place is not on my dinner table.

I have not changed my opinion in the past half century. I have spent my life deliberately trying not to incinerate my food.

More recently, I have had friends who took great joy in cooking pizza on their grill.

They would start with a frozen pizza, add a bunch of extra toppings, and then sling it on the grill and close the lid until the result looked like something dug up during an arson investigation.

My friends consider this a delicacy, but I have a strange quirk in that I like to be able to identify what I am eating.

Naturally, over the years, I have learned that not everyone who grills likes to incinerate their food.

I now know there are a lot of people who do an excellent job and produce delicious results when cooking outdoors.

The more hard core members of this group cook outdoors year round, even in Minnesota’s challenging climate.

The equipment has changed quite a bit over the years.

Although it is still possible to buy grills with the same basic design that were popular when I was young, outdoor cooking has come into its own, and some of the patio setups today are fancier than any kitchen I have seen.

Stainless steel behemoths with multiple levels and settings, and even cooler compartments to keep the cook’s beverages cold are available at any home center.

I like to stop and admire these modern marvels when I see them, but even they are not enough to convert me to a griller.

My reasons for being a non-griller today are different than they were when I was younger.

Today, I am simply too lazy.

Living alone, I don’t bother much with advanced meal planning.

I am much more of a scavenger, and settle for whatever I can find in the ice box.

Some days, I may not bother with dinner at all.

The thought of going to the extra trouble to fire up a grill before I have dinner just seems like too much effort.

I suppose there are devoted grillers who would argue that grilling is not that much work, and it is worth the effort, but I probably still won’t bother.

It is possible that if I could grill up a bunch of stuff at one time and use it for lunches in the days ahead, it might be worth it. Something tells me, however, that part of the appeal of grilling is enjoying things fresh off the grill, and that benefit may be lost if one were to rely on leftovers.

I suspect there will always be some kind of gap between the grillers and the non-grillers.

Even within the grillers camp, I have heard that there is a lively debate between the charcoal supporters and the gas grill advocates.

Whatever the medium, the smell of dinner sizzling on a grill wafting on a gentle breeze always reminds me of summer in Minnesota.

Summer officially started this week, but it will be over before we know it.


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