For thousands of years, ever since our species lived in caves, men have grilled meat over fire. It’s pure instinct, part of our DNA. Never burning the meat at all. Just right.
“Oh,” my children said, as I placed a plate of steaming, flaky, hockey-puck burgers on the table.
“I’m still getting the hang of it,” I tell them, sweat trickling down my face.
Yes, at age 43, I am the proud owner of my first grill. I’ve read some recipes, some blogs, but apparently trial and error is part of the process of learning how to use this thing.
A few times, the meat has turned out OK. Chicken has been more successful than burgers, for some reason. But all that did was give me false confidence, making me think I didn’t need to set timers anymore. If I put these burgers on the grill, I’ll be able to feel it — sense it — from the other side of the house, to know when the patties need to be flipped.
One day, I walked outside and saw that the temperature gauge on the lid said 700 degrees. This can’t be good, I thought.
I opened the lid, and I was right.
Still, as the provider, I can’t bear to throw food away. Every flat piece of coal on this grill represents money. It’s made out of blood, sweat, tears and, somewhere in there, beef.
And so, the leftovers, and there are many, end up in plastic containers in the refrigerator, for me to eat for lunch.
Which is why I appreciate even more the burgers and hot dogs that I don’t have to grill.
On July 4th, I drove my family to Jackie Robinson Ballpark for a Daytona Beach Tortugas game. What better way to celebrate America’s birthday than to enjoy America’s pastime?
Sure, there was a heat advisory, as my wife, Hailey, pointed out.
“But the bleachers are in the shade,” I said. “We should be fine.”
She raised her eyebrows and gave me a look that seemed to say, “I’ll be paying careful attention to how much shade there is, and I will remember this conversation well.”
As it turns out, the bleachers are indeed in the shade, but not until about the fourth inning. By then, we were so sluggishly sweaty that we barely had the energy to return to the concession stand for more Gatorade.
Along with our tickets, we each got “free” hot dogs, and since my children don’t love them, I had already eaten three dogs. A fourth, still neatly wrapped in foil, was calling my name.
By contrast, Hailey loses her appetite when she gets hot, so she only ate half of her burger.
There it was, sitting in the cardboard tray.
Grilled to perfection. By someone else.
I couldn’t resist.
The game was a marathon, with 23 combined hits, 19 combined walks and nine pitchers. After the fireworks, I still wasn’t hungry enough to eat that fourth hot dog. But what was I supposed to do? Throw away hot-dog-shaped money?
“Yes,” Hailey said, definitively. “It’s full of bacteria.”
But I told myself that the microwave would take care of that the next day at lunch. So I carried it back to the car, drove home with it, and tucked it into the refrigerator before tucking myself into bed.
The next day, to paraphrase William Carlos Williams, “Forgive me, it was delicious.”