Besides the obvious reason why we celebrate Memorial Day, this upcoming weekend is also the official kickoff to Summer.
Here in Michigan, we always proclaim this holiday as the gateway to Summer, even if we have traipsed some 300 plus miles to get up North to a cottage where the temps are so cold that we must sit shivering inside, or, if we venture outside, we are clad in sweats and a heavy jacket. Newberry, a city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, had snow flurries this morning.
Whether Michiganders go camping, trek to the cottage, or even just stay home for the three-day holiday, there is the usual shopping trip that will leave us salivating in anticipation of all the gourmet grilling.
I took a fast trip to Meijer today, hoping to beat that crowd that was stocking up on everything from sunblock to S’mores fixings. You sure can’t miss the displays featuring packages of those plump, pillow-like marshmallows, crisp graham crackers and melt-in-your-mouth Hershey chocolate bars. And, of course the endcaps are crammed full of condiments and munchies as well as hot dog and burger buns.
The last items to pile into your shopping cart would be the meal’s main attraction: the burger meat, wieners, kabobs and/or rack of ribs.
Is your mouth watering yet?
I must admit that grilling these days is nothing like it was when I was growing up. Most long holiday weekends, my parents and I would pile in the car and cross the border on the middle day of the holiday and our destination was Holiday Beach on the Lake Erie shoreline in Amherstburg, Ontario. We’d find a nice spot on the beach, drag out the cooler and my father would fire up the hibachi by feeding it charcoal nuggets and crossing his fingers that it would work well enough to cook the hotdogs or hamburgers we’d brought along with the cold salads and cut-up melon. That hibachi wasn’t very large, so even with just three of us, or occasionally when I brought along a friend, we’d have to eat in stages. There was swimming to work off the calories from the picnic lunch, then we’d stop at the Boots and Saddle ranch for a little horseback riding. There were many nice memories from the long holidays back in the day.
Eventually, we graduated to a kettle grill, which was a fairly standard item on every homeowner’s back patio in those days. There was alot of fanfare just to cook your meal, and, of course you had to wave off all the flies and ants in the neighborhood who were hanging around looking for a nibble.
It’s so easy now with a gas or propane grill, but, if you are of a certain age, you can probably remember mom or dad hauling out that big paper bag of briquettes and dumping them into the concave grill bottom. A cloud of black dust would erupt from the charcoal nuggets as those briquettes tumbled out of the bag and settled into the recesses of the grill cavity. Then it was a couple of squirts of lighter fluid to get it all going and soon there was a raging fire. I know I always stood way back in case an errant spark grabbed onto my pony tail. The backyard was always filled with dark smoke and in the midst of that smoke fest, my mom would be slamming shut the bedroom windows lest the black dust settle on all those perky cream-colored Priscillas. Then, there was the post-meal scrub down of any crud that caked onto the grill grates. My mom would have spent most of the Friday before the holiday boiling up potatoes to make potato salad or cutting up green and red cabbage and carrot slivers to make coleslaw. It was only in her later years that her lazy daughter would finally convince her to buy store-made cold salads or head to “The Boneyard”, a famous rib joint here in town, where all the work required was daintily dabbing our mouths and fingers with a napkin to remove the grease and BBQ sauce that squirted everywhere as you feasted on that meal.
So, remembering the good ol’ days of family grilling, I had to chuckle when I heard a radio ad yesterday touting the new Hardee’s “picnic burger” which is available starting tomorrow. The concept is that you can have all your holiday picnic fare between two buns. This gastronomical wonder has an official name: “Hardee’s American Thick Burger” and consists of a layer of potato chips, a 1/3 or 1/2 pound burger, topped with a split wiener and all the usual burger toppings. One burger is 1,030 calories and has 64 grams of fat. Really!?
But hey – look at all the time you’d save shopping, grilling and cleaning up.
P.S. – The Hardee’s here in town closed up two decades ago and a Wendy’s opened in its place. I guess that’s a good thing for my waistline.