She stands silent and regal, a vinyl cover draped over her to keep out the dust and moisture. She smells like smoke and memories. Memories of a hundred summer barbecues – failures and success – all run together as if time was simply events jammed onto on a spindle instead of an organized sequence. She has borne witness to celebrations of friends, loves, family and even some tragedy. I honed my craft with her, she was my very first. They call her a “Weber Performer”, but she is so much more than that to me. Over the years I have purchased a couple of other models, and even built in a wood burning oven and grill. She still has her hallowed spot by the back door.
I know her. I know how hot she will get. I know how to keep her at 350 degrees for hours, just by adjusting the airflow.
I know how to run her low and slow like a smoker, creating a ring of charcoal around the lower grate like the letter “C” and dumping about 20 lit coals on one end. She’ll slowly burn it like a fuse.
I know how to run her like a blast furnace, using a “Vortex”; a section of steel sheet metal bent into a cone that fits on the lower rack and comes to just under the grilling rack. I fill it with hot coals and the heat is forced through the top portion of it at extreme temperatures.
I know how she can slowly cook a leg of lamb or chicken on her rotisserie ring, watching the meat baste while spinning around it’s axis. Yes, I know her.
She has taken exquisite care of me, teaching me the nuances of the grilling and outdoor cooking arts, whispering into my ear to slow down and use my senses. To hear to the food as it sizzles on the grate. To look at the lovely browned crust on the meat. To smell the smoke and savory aromas. To feel the gentle texture and quality of a chicken breast or a ribeye steak when it’s done to my liking. In return, I keep her shiny and clean and she runs as well as she did on the first day I got her.
She endeavors to resurrect something primal in me, memories stored in a part of my mind that belonged to an ancient ancestor – hunting, providing for his family, and cooking with fire. And memories of childhood, watching my dad and the other men cook outdoors smelling the wood smoke, the sausages. Hearing them banter and laugh. Much simpler times.
Now, sometimes when I find myself mixed up in the complication of every day living, I walk to the back door, remove the vinyl cover and light the charcoal in the starter. It’s summer again, the gentle breezes are aloft, I can smell the charcoal and she is whispering in my ear. Slow down.