Essay: Grilling Out

Jul 17, 2020

“What is that thing in the driveway?” I asked my mother.  It looked like a little flying saucer with a round metal body and four spindly legs.


“It’s a charcoal grill,” she said.  “Dad’s going to cook hamburgers on it tonight.”

I was guessing that Dad didn’t know about this yet.  None of us knew anything about charcoal grilling which was something my mother had heard about on television.

“It’s all the rage,” she said and certainly the word “rage” came to describe our experience.  The family watched eagerly as Dad dumped the charcoal briquettes into the round metal saucer and lit a match.  Nothing happened.

“You need lighter fluid,” my mother said and proceeded to spray a foul-smelling liquid on the briquettes.  This time the match produced flames as high as the garage.  

Nobody had told her that it took a half hour for the briquettes to get hot or that they  looked gray when they were ready to cook.  That night we ate hamburgers that tasted like lighter fluid and I wondered why anybody would prefer this to a frying pan?

It would be years before my father learned how to grill out and by then my mother had heard about gas grills on television.

“They’re all the rage,” she said.