Have you ever had a memory inextricably linked to a type of food or a specific meal? When I think back on my childhood, I am often drawn to those moments of family lore that involve food.
When I think about my summers in the Hamptons on Long Island, one of the first images that I conjour is that of summer grilling and backyard barbecues. I see my 5’2″ mother donning a crisp white apron and her Sally Jesse Rafael eyeglasses, leaning into the billowing smoke of the barbecue grill. The grill of my childhood was no ordinary grill. It was hand-built and bespoke, a beast of a grill. The same size as a VW Bug, its most distinctive feature was a frisbee-size crankwheel that when turned, lowered and raised the sloped grill surface above a wood burning fire. I loved watching the crimson juices run down the v-shaped channels of the grate. I still love the wild sound of sizzling fat dripping into flames.
“Bring me the Persuader,” my mother would shout. My stomach would start to grumble as I, knowing the food would soon be off the grill, would quickly run and find the v-shaped piece of tempered steel attached to the end of a long rod. My mother would use the Persuader to coax the little roasty bits out of the grill channels into a basting pan. As the last step in the meal preparation, my mother would whisk away the basting pan and mix the collected juices and tasty bits with a tablespoon of arrowroot and a splash of red wine to make her signature gravy. My mother cooked many things on that grill. Mostly NY Strip Steak and just picked zucchini and eggplant from roadside farm stands. Steamed corn on the cob and her version of caprese salad almost always accompanied a meal on the patio. To this day, nothing feels more like home for me than a meal cooked on a hot, smokey barbecue grill.
Do you have favorite barbecue grilling memories? Please share.
Note: Curious about the type of grill my mother used? They are still made by Grillworks right here in the USA. Photo: Grillery.com