Smoke rises and swirls out of the space left ajar from the lid of our trusty Weber BBQ. I raise the lid, wearing my husband’s welding glove against the heat. I inspect the coals, which have turned dusty white, save for an orange glow deep within the pile. The wind shifts a puff of smoke into my face. It washes me in the smell of roasting beef. A gaseous facial that stings my nose. I turn away and snort out into fresh air.
Dark red brown meat sizzles on the grill. Drop, spatter, pop. I pinch up a piece with my tongs. Red clear oily juice runs down the sides. Corners and edges crisp dark and stiff. The grill bars shine from where the steak laid. Smoke rises and catches the wind. Looking through it, I see its heat wiggling the look of the garage walls beyond. Even the tops of the back neighbor’s redwood tree blur and waver through my smoke. I raise my sleeve to my nose, and smell steak there too.
I ease back into the camp chair. Fabric creaks to hold my weight. The breeze blows. I absently tuck a few tickling hairs behind my ears and, squinting, rub my nose.
Summer still reigns in our slice of paradise. I take a deep breath of meat smoke blown my way, satisfied. I love the summer fire ritual of BBQing. The smells and taste of roasted meat and vegetables. The coal preparation. The communal dragging out of lawn chairs to congregate around the hot dusty Weber.
In the food documentary “Cooked,” Michael Pollan says that you can travel anywhere in the world, and always recognize the familiar practice of roasting food over fire – the familiar ritual of BBQ.
It feels universal, doesn’t it?
So, I tell myself, that’s why I BBQ: to reconnect with the tribal, worldwide community of those who grill. To feel the smush or spring of the meat – testing the texture of its “done-ness.” To sniff for the acrid smell of burning. To listen for the roar of grease-dripping flare-ups. To monitor my meat to a palatable perfection.
Or so I say.
But, truthfully, there are more immediate, visceral, MOM reasons to cook outside. After all, this isn’t any old BBQ. This is a MOM-B’Q. Which means a few different things:
One: My children are old enough to be safely left to play on their own. Aside from the kicker in my belly, I have no babies right now to tend to. They have grown to be kids. Which frees me up to tend to the coals. The kids can ride bikes outside, where I can see them, or they can disappear into the house. The nice thing about the house is that there are no kidnappers in there. And I feel reasonably certain that I can handle all other manner of kid emergencies that might arise from playing in the house. Reasonably certain. Don’t quote me on that. But this Mom-B’Q would not be possible if I had an infant or a baby to care for. Baby skin and HOT firey outdoorsey dangers just don’t mix, no matter how well I can multi-task. The cons outweigh the pros. Call me old-fashioned. Or just a scaredy-cat. But for now: I grill.
Two: the senses of cooking outdoors seem to be heightened for a mom. The nightly ritual of dinner usually takes place in the kitchen. So, conversely, it seems like an exotic holiday to cook out under the clear blue sky. I almost want to reach up and click on the range fan when the smoke swirls up. Where is the switch? WHERE IS THE – oh, right. I’m outside.
Also, it’s so peaceful. The emotional climate of a clattering kitchen at the end of the day can be a bit, ahem, hostile. Add in the echo-echo-echo of screaming/playing/fighting/laughing/whining children bouncing off the walls, and you’ve got a mom who is a pot boiling over. But outside, even the craziest emotions have space. Sooooo much space to exist. Sounds are dimmer, fights diffuse, and we can all listen to the birds and the wind in the summer evening (Which I didn’t have to turn on, or help to un-pause, or change the channel for.) God bless us, everyone.
Three: Mom-BQed meat is DELICIOUS. I love it. My husband loves it. And my kids will eat it (which, in picky kid language, is a vote of confidence.) It’s weird, but this pregnancy, I’m craving all manner of beef, and all forms of potatoes. STEADILY. No joke. In related news, this pregnancy, I’m carrying my first boy. So essentially, my son is making me eat like a cowboy. Which thrills my husband, because then he gets to eat like a cowboy as well. This summer, we are all rough-ridin’ buckaroos at the dinner table. And I can’t even stop it. I’m cooking outdoors more than ever, buying steaks more than ever, and learning how to use a meat thermometer on a regular basis.
So, Mama, if you haven’t ventured out to the coals this summer, now you have a few reason to try it out. It’s good for your mind: to learn a new way to make dinner. It’s good for your body: all that delicious smokey, grilled meat, veggies, food food food. It’s good for your spirit: to close your eyes, listen to the sizzling steak on the grill, and thank the Lord for this space to consider his goodness, peace, and provision, that stretches up to the sky.