There are few things better than cooking outdoors, over an open fire, with a drink in hand. Whether it’s a nicely marbled New York Strip, burgers, chicken, or vegetables, most food tastes better flame kissed with a touch of char. And lording over one’s culinary kingdom with a beverage makes the act all the more enjoyable.
Sadly, it took nearly six months for me to acquire a grill after moving last year, resulting in much wasted time; especially because my wife encouraged me to buy one the weekend we moved in (and kept on encouraging me pretty much every weekend that followed). This summer’s extended daylight hours thus disappeared, lost to my indecision and trepidation bordering on intimidation. How could I, a father of two in my early 30s not yet know how to grill? Certainly this made me less of a man.
Thankfully, I eventually pulled the trigger and bought a grill. Or rather, the trigger was pulled for me. My wife, fed up with my perpetual procrastination and excuse-making, simply bought one herself.
“Do you like this grill?” she asked, handing me our laptop open to an Amazon.com page.
“Sure, it looks nice.”
“Good, because I bought it today. I was tired of waiting around for you to do it. It’ll be here in two days. It’s probably a bit more than you would have spent, but I think we’ll use it a lot, and it got good reviews. You’re welcome.”
“Ok. I’ll look into getting a propane tank tomorrow.”
A few short days later, I learned I have quite the knack for grilling. While standing there, watching the flames flickering, I began thinking: what determines what I drink while I grill, an activity mostly involving (a) standing around and (b) drinking. I settled on three key factors: weather, or more specifically temperature; time, which is to say, amount of food to be cooked; and finally, and perhaps most importantly, mood.
Here, an example or two might be helpful. Let’s say I’m cooking hot dogs for lunch on an autumn weekend afternoon. Temperatures are seasonal – sweatshirt weather – and cook time is short, about 10 minutes, including time for the grill to preheat. A beer is a reasonable (and obvious) choice. However, since it’s only lunchtime, what about a mug of coffee with a touch of whisky to better keep brisk fall breezes at bay?
Or, let’s say I’m grilling steaks for dinner. Would I rather pour a dram of scotch while cooking or leave that to be enjoyed during or after the meal? How about an apéritif instead? Can they legitimately be enjoyed while grilling? I can’t find a rule or opinion against it, but it just feels off; Campari or Fernet Branca, members of the bitters family, seem to be the only appropriate choices.
This is my conundrum: a light-hearted knot to untie while passing time away in front of the fire, if watching your food cook isn’t distraction enough.