As a child, I never really knew where to place my appreciation when it came to my parents and their summer grilling. My mom was the one who went to the store and bought all of the ingredients. She would be the one to make the marinade for our flank steak using her family's recipe. It was mom who would dote over it for the next three days and turn it when necessary to ensure the steak had absorbed all the flavor. On the grilling day mom would put together a salad and a side while my younger brother and I set the table.
After all this Dad would take the meat and toss it on the grill. He would watch it with a certain intensity usually only reserved for work and shotgun enthusiast magazines. In summer he saw grilling as his testosterone-inherited duty.
When dinner was served we would all thank Dad for the amazing work he did at the grill. Mom would be thanked as well, but always second to dad. After all, from my young point of view all I really saw was dad sweating over the blaring heat of the grill. Plus, I didn't like salad so I never really thanked mom for it.
It wasn't fair, but then life seldom is. Mom wasn't about to put down her children's father right in front of the whole family in order to get her proper due. She was reserved and very self-sacrificing that way. She still is. (Well, most of the time. If she's going to get a jab in it'll be a good one; "Mom! I can't believe you just said that!" "Well, it's the truth," she'll say nonchalantly.) As kids, though, nary a peep.
As I got older I realized how much more effort mom was putting in over dad. Like an intern, she was doing all the work and getting none of the credit.
One dinner - I don't recall which one or when, just somewhere in the 90's - we had some extended family and family friends over for dinner. A huge shindig by the pool where everyone chatted and played games of catch up over tall glasses of iced tea that mom had brewed the previous day.
Mom, of course, was indoors playing the part of the good hostess. Her waist-long, deepest brunette hair that was the color of a roasted chestnut shell trailed behind her as she poured drinks and welcomed guests. Her pink Fourth of July t-shirt and the flap-flap of her sandals hitting the tile floor were welcoming and familiar to all who knew her. Mom was the reason so many people came to our home.
During all this dad was outside with the other husbands and male family members. They crowded around the grill talking man-stuff and offering dad advice of when to move the meat, when to turn the meat over, when to pick it up and put it back in the same place, etc.
Soon, dinner was served. Everyone picked out pieces of the savory flank whose scent had been seducing us all for the last hour. Guests ooh'd and ahh'd as they picked up tender pink slices, and they moaned with each bite. I watched them eagerly as they gingerly ate steak with their fingers while I sat in the corner nibbling on the extra charred ends. Around the table everyone congradulated dad on the job well done. "A pro at the grill!" "No other like him!" Slaps on the back for mastering the art of meat and fire.
I was a bit irritated by it. Then, out of nowhere, protest. "Dad only grilled. Mom did everything else. Shouldn't we be thanking her?"
I immediately regretted what I said. I had badmouthed my own dad in front of everyone. Oh. God. What had I done?
The reprimand I expected never came. Everyone laughed and mom smiled and shushed me, but I could tell that she was happy for the recognition. Dad seemed to admit his small part in the meal and thanked her too. They smiled and shared a quick kiss in front of everyone. A collective cooing from the peanut gallery and dinner continued as usual.
Today, as an adult, grilling is much the same for my and BF as it was for mom and dad. I buy the meat, make the sides, the salad, even the homemade peach barbecue sauce. I let BF do the grilling. The same thing occurs as with my parents: people thank Brian for grilling, the most visual and tangible step, first; and me second for everything else.
Honestly, I'm totally fine with it. I realize now that so was mom. After all that cooking and prepping I just want to be done. If someone else wants to stand and sweat over a fire to flip meat for a half hour then let them. Less work for me.
Plus, I know the guests are happy and BF appreciates the work I did behind the scenes. As long as bellies leave full and smiling the credit doesn't really matter.
Recently, the amount of grill prep I do in the kitchen has increased due to my making our own unique barbecue sauce. This homemade peach barbecue sauce is epic. Time consuming and laborious, but epic. Fresh, summer sweet peaches are cooked down with vinegar, plenty of sugar, lemon, and spices into a thick, brassy sauce. A good tablespoon of chipotle powder infuses it with a dark, smokey heat that lingers in your mouth. In fact, when we cook with it we have to restrain ourselves from eating it with a spoon.
It's a bit of work to put together. The peaches must be blanched and skinned beforehand. There's a two part cooking process. I always process and seal the jars in a water bath for longevity and storage. It's a lot of slaving over boiling pots in a humid kitchen in the middle of summer. It's all the more reason I don't want to slave over a grill. The result, however, from four pounds of peaches is a whopping 4 to 5 pints of the sauce that'll last us for an entire year.
Grilling, I guess, isn't about appreciation. It's about the memories developed and the good times had because of it. It took a while to realize that mom already knew that.
Peach Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma's The Art of Preserving
Makes 4-5 pints
4 lbs. free stone yellow peaches
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup bourbon (or water)
1 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Blanch and peel the peaches. Cut them in half, pit them, and chop the halves into slices. Toss in a nonreactive bowl (with this recipe, use nonreactive everything) with the lemon juice and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan or stockpot add the oil and heat over medium-low heat. Add the onion and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the peaches, vinegar, brown sugar, and bourbon. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
3. Allow the mixture to cool and then process in a blender, in batches, until cool. (Or, if you have an immersion blender you don't have to wait for it to cool or do batches or all the hassle, just go to town.) Pour back into the stockpot. Add the tomato paste, Worcestershire, ginger, chili powder, chipotle powder, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce to medium. Cook for 10 minutes stirring the entire time.
4. Ladle into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Secure with hot, clean lids. Process in a water bath for 15 minutes. Sealed jars can be stored in a dark, cool place for a year. Opened jars keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.