By Jerry Zezima
Like a lot of grandfathers, I have gas. That’s because I recently filled the propane tank on my barbecue grill.
I have always been wary of the inflammable substance because it could, in addition to burning steaks to a crisp, blow me to smithereens. But my wife, Sue, who does all the indoor cooking, wanted me to barbecue some kielbasa.
More often than not, she wants me to grill vegetables, like squash, which I don’t like. The only way to barbecue the stuff so it satisfies my discriminating tastes is to incinerate it.
I take greater care with my grandchildren’s favorites, hamburgers and hot dogs. Unfortunately, I haven’t grilled for the kiddies in a long time. But since we’re vaccinated, and a visit to our house may happen soon, I want to be prepared.
So I called my longtime friends and fellow grandpas Hank Richert and Tim Lovelette for some grilling guidance.
“Get yourself a smoker,” advised Hank. “And watch out for snakes.”
Shortly after Hank and his wife, Angela, were married, they had a small gas grill. One day, Hank went out to the patio of their new house to cook burgers.
“I took the cover off the grill and this gigantic black snake was coiled on the lid,” Hank recalled. “Angela said she’d never seen me run so fast. The snake was harmless, but because it was so big and with the way it looked at me, I almost had a heart attack.”
“Did you barbecue it?” I wondered.
“No,” Hank said. “The snake took off, too.”
Nowadays, Hank has a smoker on which he cooks brined chicken, ribs, steak and, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, turkey.
“What about vegetables?” I asked.
“I’ll grill potatoes, but that’s it,” Hank said.
“Does Angela barbecue, too?” I inquired.
“No,” Hank said. “She’s more than willing to let me do it.”
Hank’s best barbecue dish is the one Angela likes best: brined salmon.
“She won’t eat salmon anywhere else,” Hank said proudly.
It’s also the favorite barbecue dish of Hank and Angela’s 3-year-old granddaughter, Julia.
“She wasn’t even 2 when she first tried it and she ate as much as she had ever eaten in her life,” Hank reported.
“I bet Julia would like to see you on a TV cooking show,” I said. “She’d be impressed.”
“It takes a lot to impress kids these days,” said Hank. “Unless I was a character on her favorite show, ‘PAW Patrol.’ ”
“Your show could be called ‘PA Patrol,’ ” I suggested. “But even if it doesn’t happen, you can join my new organization, the Grandpa Grilling Club.”
“We could have walkers with beverage holders,” Hank said.
Since great (or perhaps warped) minds think alike, I heard something similar when I called Tim.
“It’s amazing how much grandfathers rely on beer to get through the grilling season,” said Tim, who has three grills: a pellet grill and a charcoal grill at home and a smoker at the family insurance business.
Tim and his wife, Jane, have six grandchildren ranging in age from 15 to 6.
“They mostly like hot dogs, but they’ll eat other things,” Tim said. “Jane grills, too, and has a great chicken wing recipe. If I’m making something the kids don’t like, I tell them, ‘Your grandmother cooked that.’ It gets me off the hook.”
The toughest barbecue sells for grandchildren, according to Tim, are seafood and vegetables.
“Kids don’t like fish on the grill,” he said, not realizing that Hank’s granddaughter loves it. “And they hate vegetables. Who doesn’t?”
“Our wives,” I said.
“There’s a way out of it,” Tim said. “Bring all that stuff outside and then say, ‘Oh, no! I dropped the vegetables in the grass.’ To add drama, you can fall in the grass, too. Do that on a regular basis and your wife will have you looked at for physical problems. But the grandkids will love it. Small things amuse small minds. That’s the whole point of being a grandfather.”
“You’ve just gained acceptance in the Grandpa Grilling Club,” I said.
“I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me as a member,” Tim said, echoing a famous line by Groucho Marx. “But in this case, I’ll make an exception. You bring the beer.”
Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima