We visited some old friends on Friday, and I encountered another, unexpected old acquaintance; one that stirred up emotions I didn’t know I had. The source of my welling eyes was not my hockey buddy Risto and his wife Jessica, our hosts for the night, although, it had been a while; it was something much less interesting: a charcoal grill.
This year, after many seasons of deliberation, I finally turned my back on charcoal grilling and invested in a (far too expensive) gas grill. Weber, of course; the Rolls Royce of gas grills. And I love it. I have used it at least four times a week since unveiling it to a rapt crowd. And to those that say gas doesn’t give the same taste as charcoal, I say rubbish; you’re clearly not doing it right.
BUT, something about Risto’s small-but-perfectly-formed kettle grill set my culinary juices flowing. It could have been the ritual of lighting it (something you don’t get with the simple click and cook of gas), or the wonderful smoky wood smell as it burns itself to readiness (another thing sorely lacking with gas); or maybe it was the delicious panic of perfectly timing the moment of cooking: “it must be time now, it will be cold soon” said Jessica. “Time for another beer,” said Risto.
Whatever the reason, I felt a pang of guilt that my little charcoal grill now resides in a darkened, cobwebbed corner of our garage, its pride of place taken by the gas-fuelled monster that knocked it from its throne. I felt that I was letting down the true spirit of Swedish grilling.
Risto (for it was he at the controls) did justice to his grill: delicious skewers of mixed Swedish sausage, pepper, onion and halloumi cheese plus Parma-ham-wrapped-asparagus: all of it out of this world.
As I ate, I relented. I would take out my charcoal grill when we came home, I decided, and give it one more try.
Such is the power of Risto’s Czech beer, because in the cold light of day, this evening, marinated chicken and chorizo skewers at the ready (the night of my first wedding anniversary, by the way), I realized the foolishness of my promise. Charcoal? I couldn’t be bothered. Too much time. Too much hassle.
Yes, it’s all very well romanticizing about coal, but when push comes to shove, I’m a Renaissance man; a gas man. But Friday taught me something; I still have a yearning. Perhaps I will dust off my charcoal grill when I have a little more time. At the very least I will keep it oiled and ready to go; just in case.
On a more positive note, and apropos nothing, I had a major success in the vegetable growing department. Two plump, juicy, scarlet, perfectly Swedish strawberries suddenly appeared in my garden on Saturday. Pia and I had one each. One minute from plant to mouth, they were the most fantastically sweet and flavoursome strawberries I have ever tasted.
If I get no other fruits (so to speak) from my grow-your-own labours this year, those two little red beauties will be more than worth it.
Add to that the fact that I have realized there is a place for both gas and charcoal in my life, and you could say that this past weekend has been something of an epiphany. And that’s not something you can say every Monday.
You should follow me on Twitter, by the way. You know you want to. @swedenfood