First of all, “Happy Father’s Day” to all the dads out there! I think dads get under-appreciated most of the time. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that for Father’s Day, there are a lot of dads out grilling their own dinners and dinner for their families as part of their “celebration!” You know, because Dad Does The Outdoor Cooking. 🙂
At least, that’s how it was at my house. My dad does not know how to cook. Not at all. But as The Man, he did all the “outdoor cooking.” Outdoor cooking at my house consisted of my mom preparing a rack of ribs, (cutting them into 4-rib portions, salting, peppering, and saucing them) cooking “french fries” in the oven, maybe cooking some corn on the cob, setting the table, making iced tea, and maybe a relish tray. During this time, my dad would have put charcoal briquettes into the grill, lit them, and waited for them to be the right temperature. This procedure involved some lighter fluid, some little wads of paper, and a few…hmmm…colorful words. This was the time when my dad would put on his “ball cap” and have “a beer.” I put “a beer” in quotation marks because my dad never really drank beer, not that I can remember, except for during the “Outdoor Cooking” episodes. On these days, there would be a six pack of Budweiser. My dad thought “a beer” meant a Bud. (side note: Once at my brother’s house, my brother offered my dad a Corona, complete with lime in the top of the bottle, as is customary. He said he didn’t want any “fruit in his beer.” ) In my childish memory it was kind of an event because it didn’t happen too often. As a kid I thought Budweiser smelled awful. Oh wait, as an adult I still think it smells awful.
When the grill was ready, my mom would take the prepared ribs to my dad and he would put them on the grill and then babysit them for what seemed like an eternity. I remember liking them, with the barbecue sauce seared onto the outside, all black. Ribs were one of the few foods that you definitely ate with your hands. The black bits stuck to our hands and faces, the corn kernels stuck in our teeth, and it was a glorious tribute to Americana. But afterward…if we were lucky and there were peaches, sometimes my dad would “make” peach ice cream. My mom had this great ice cream recipe that she got from a family friend. The secret ingredient was (shhh…don’t tell…) instant vanilla pudding mix! She’d make this mixture and pour it in the ice cream maker. The ice cream maker consisted of a metal canister with a dasher, and a lid, which fit into an orange bucket with a motor that attached to the top. My dad’s job was to expertly apply the ice, rock salt and water to the orange bucket, adding ice and/or salt as necessary. It was a very particular job, and I always thought that this was the most important part. (sorry, mom.) Waiting for the ice cream was sheer torture to my young self. The taste of peach ice cream always transports me to “Outdoor Cooking” days when I was a girl.
Thanks, dad, for cooking outdoors. I love these little memories with my dad.