Guest Post: Eric and the Grill

25 Mar

Tonight I bring you a special treat:  A guest post authored by my partner in crime, Eric.  I hope you enjoy it!

I’m not Fawn, far from it in fact, but she wanted me to write a guest post.

Our life in a lot of ways is centered around food.  I think a lot of families have rituals around how they prepare and consume meals, whether that means a quick meal heated up the microwave or whether that means a full dinner prepared from scratch, but for us meal times are a way to re-center, to be creative, to make an enjoyable experience out of the simple aspects of life.

This last weekend we got a grill.

I grew up in a family that didn’t really “believe” in grilling.  At some point in high school my dad eventually got our family a grill and we would occasionally pull it out (usually when my mother was off for the weekend, or was willing to indulge in our whims), in any case it certainly was not a normal part of our meal-time routine.  As someone who has always liked simplicity in food, grilling represents an excellent blend of flavorful depth with simplistic presentation – a grilled meat inevitably takes on the complexity of the smokey aroma of the grill but can be presented as a single unified piece.  Much like strips of sashimi over a neatly prepared bowl of rice, a grilled steak on the side of a plate represents a certain stylistic choice.

I am no expert with the grill but I have always subscribed to a sort of minimalist perspective on grilled foods.  I prefer the simplicity in presentation and preparation.  I like charcoal over propane, I like grilled meats to retain a certain traditional element to them, and I like the process of grilling as much as I enjoy the product.  Grilling takes a certain degree of work that normal cooking does not.  Where you might simply pre-heat an oven to cook a cut of fish, grilling requires a certain dedication.  You must first prepare the coals and then distribute them evenly, considering airflow and heat distribution while arranging the food to be cooked.  Unlike an oven or stove-top where the heat provides a certain degree of regularity, grilling is as much an art of guess-work and observation as it is a close science.  While I know there are some grill-masters who have the temperature gradients and aroma components in a grill down to a science, I have always appreciated the spontaneity and chance elements of the grilling experience.  There is something added with that unknown factor.

While there are a lot of ways I enjoy preparing food, grilling gives a certain depth both in flavor and process to my food preparation that is uniquely desirable.  It’s not just that grilled meats taste especially good (which they do) or that grilled vegetables start to take on a different set of flavors, it’s that grilled foods require a patience and approach that favors simplicity, patience, and ritual.  And in a world where it’s easy enough to microwave a dinner, or to go out to order a steak, or to even cook something reliably at a single temperature in an oven, throwing yourself to the unpredictable world of the charcoal grill where the wind and air temperature have as much of an effect as your choice of charcoal and your arrangement of the coals – it provides an experience that becomes centered around process, centered around the food, that you’d otherwise miss in your cooking.

I look forward to the grill, not because I think it’s the perfect, or ideal, method for cooking, but because it’s a variation, it’s a chance to experiment, and move beyond my comfortable cooking range.  I enjoy the grill because it imparts a certain flavor profile, while still remaining very true to the food involved.  And while I am sure that with more time I will gain a certain understanding and appreciation for how the grilling process works, I am also sure that it is a method that will provide a spontaneity and character that standard stovetop/oven cooking just cannot offer.

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