This is a guest post by Ivan Pavlov, the mind responsible for Pavlov’s Blog. Pavlov was raised in New Hampshire, attended Culinary School in Birmingham, AL a virtual hotbed of culinary talent. Ivan lives and tries to write in Portsmouth, NH. His favorite foods are of the type, size and shape to fit in his mouth but will stuff them in if needed. His favorite cook is that guy he once saw make hollandaise using a deep fryer. He cooked professionally for 4 years but decided it was far easier to cook in his flip flops at home. He’s a Leo that doesn’t enjoy long walks on the beach or holding hands at sunset, but is willing to try eating fugu through a straw with the right person. Favorite Restaurant is Per Se…and that’s no joke. I think you will enjoy his humorous blog as much as I do. In the mean time, here are his musings on grilling:
Aside from teetering between winter and summer wardrobes, spring in New England also means one other thing…being able to get your grill on! I realize now with most people having a gas grill it’s fairly easy to grill all winter long. Provided you don’t mind stomping a trail through the butt deep snow to get to the snow covered grill on the deck. The benefit of winter grilling is being able to have the odd drink or three to help the grill master fight off the chill while torching a few wieners.
But when I was a kid I always looked forward to hauling “ole Bessie”(the charcoal grill) out of the storage shed with my dad and my brother Bryan. We would clean out the cobwebs and fire it up for the first charcoal flavored pucks my mom called burgers on a warm spring day. I guess I hadn’t thought that much about how grilling had changed over the years until I was over my mother’s house last week. It was 84 degrees and my mother said she’d like to grill something.
My mom isn’t much of a carnivore like my brother and I are… or my father was, so I suggested a balsamic mushroom cap burger. She smiled and said “you’re kidding me…what’s a mushroom cap burger?” I explained it to her and while I was talking, realized this may be the most exotic thing to ever hit my parent’s grill. Unless you count my parent’s neighbor who had one too many, and set his plastic tumbler filled with blackberry brandy down on the gas grill after it had just been shut off. Ah, burning plasti-brandy will leave an impression in your memory of unforgettable smells.
When I was a kid we had your standard blue collar fare of hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken and steaks. My father was the grill master, but mother being afraid of undercooked meat imposed guidelines on most all of the meats. So by hot dogs I mean natural casing dogs that were burned beyond recognition (I still love them this way). Hamburgers are supposed to have a crust, but this crust went darned near to the middle. The chicken was parboiled first before going onto the grill to maximize the sawdust texture that grilling alone could never achieve. The steaks (steaks in the most rudimentary sense of the word…meaning they were beef.) were the one thing mother had no influence over and therefore my father would basically throw them on, flip one minute later and abra-ca-pocus…they were blessedly done.
We had several types of grills growing up from the lowly hibachi to the grandiose Weber, and everything in between. The one thing they all had in common was the use of industrial charcoal and about a half-gallon of lighter fluid to get the coals going. I remember my uncle had built a contraption to light coals with just crumbled up newspaper in sort of a chimney configuration. I thought to myself, where is the fun in that? You’re robbing yourself the enjoyment of seeing a mushroom cloud of flame and the smelling of burned arm hair the lighter fluid provided. What can I say, my uncle was a pioneer who would be a rich man today had he patented the idea…but he’d probably still cut up his own cord wood.
Today, I see chefs on YouTube grilling up soy and ginger marinated chioggia beets and celeriac on lemon grass skewers. Antelope burgers with a side of grilled yucca frites because saying fries is never going to be pretentious enough for an internet video with such high production value…besides, this guy’s hoping to go viral! Here’s another one of a chef doing something interesting with grilled rhubarb, tapioca pearls and wine? Ok, I think some things should just be done in the kitchen…or in this case, not at all.
I guess I shouldn’t put these innovators of grilling down. I myself am doing things much different these days that would have been unheard of back then. First thing, I got a gas grill which my parents never got until I was out of high school as I suppose my father got tired of bald forearms. I got a digital electric smoker that I can monitor with a smart phone app and will shut off automatically once the meat reaches a desired doneness. My parents, well they wouldn’t have gotten this if it was given to them for free. My mom still has a VCR in her bedroom that’s flashing 12:00.
I’m grilling a great variety of meats to temp as opposed to flat black, and grilling vegetables while brushing with different sauces and marinades. Grilled fish and different fruit cobblers are all possible and quite delicious when done on my grill. Could it be because of some guy who decided apple wood smoked puffin kebabs served on blackened grilled parsnip and ugly fruit puree was a good idea?
I guess it is a combination of that guy and most definitely, my parents. I was young, and outside without a jacket for the first time since the previous October enjoying a warm spring day. I was with my family who loved me. I was learning the manly art of grilling, and the more manly art of listening to my mother make sure my father was doing it correctly. So get outside and enjoy your spring…go ahead and grill something delicious. I think I’m going to head over to mom’s an put a good char on a few poor defenseless hot dogs.