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Cyndi Allison - Grill Girl

Outdoor Cooking and Fun Memories

Maw and the Grandkids
My Mom and the Grands

Some of my best memories were made around a grill or campfire. There’s just something about cooking outdoors that sticks with a body for years and years.

My Dad – The Grill King

My Dad was the head griller at home. He was an engineer, and he took a very academic approach to fire lighting. He’d stack his coals just so, and he was always looking at gadgets for fire starting. I remember one contraption that he had that plugged in the house outlet and had a wand to stick in the coals. He really liked that fire wand.

Dad died in a traffic accident two years ago coming up this week. I still see him in my mind pulling out his old cast iron grill and miss him at the table here when I have a barbecue. I hope they have lots of cool grill fire starters in heaven, because I know my Dad would much rather study on how to make the perfect fire than have one just start up like magic.

My Mom - Brownie Days

Mom was the Brownie Scout leader in town. She had us all looking in the magic mirror pond, playing circle games and cooking on Buddy Burners. I thought those homemade outdoor stoves were just the coolest. And, I loved sticking marshmallows on skinny green tree limbs and toasting them over the campfire.

I don’t think Mom ever much liked cooking, although I didn’t figure that out when I was younger. I just know that I asked for an Easy Bake Oven, and she told me I could use the real oven just any time. I was such a flop at that, I had to be the family dishwasher.

When I told my Mom about my cooking websites, she said she sure never thought I’d ever be much of a cook and write about cooking. It must have been a recessive gene that kicked in later in life and passed on by my Grandma.

Grandmothers

My cooking definitely came from the maternal side. That would be Grandma. Granny (my paternal grandmother) did not like to cook at all, and she served chicken gizzards when we visited. Who serves gizzards to the grandkids?

Kitchen plates were popular with my grandmothers’ generation. Their plates kind of sum it up. Grandma’s favorite plate said: “Two things are always open. Grandma’s arms and Grandma’s kitchen.” Granny’s plate said, “I am not a fast cook. I am not a slow cook. I am a half fast cook.”

Grandma would pack up wieners, buns and potato salad to carry around the mountain when we’d burn the big brush pile. Instant cook out. She knew how to put on a feed any time and any where.

Granny would take us out to a restaurant. She especially loved to go to Shoney’s and get a chocolate fudge cake for dessert. I once suggested that perhaps we split one. Those are huge. No chance. Granny said I didn’t have to eat it all, but she wasn’t splitting a fudge cake. We’d have two fudge cakes.

Both grandmothers are now gone. Boy, I miss them. I inherited the two kitchen plates, and I smile when I see them. I may have to find my own plate to pass along. I wonder if they make Grill Girl decorative wall plates?

A New Generation

One of the first things when I moved away was buy a cheap grill. That was a mistake (save up and get a decent one), but I did learn to cook on a bad grill and can now cook on almost anything.

After I had the boys, I found that outdoor cooking was a good way to make meals fun. We were a military family and hauled our grill all over the world – literally. In addition to U.S. duty stations, we also lived in Greece and Japan. It was always home when we patted out burgers and had a cook out.

When the boys got bigger, they joined Boy Scouts (and both made Eagle). I worked with the kids on the cooking merit badges. That’s when I got into pie irons and Dutch Ovens. We’d have little guys over in the yard constantly cooking up all kinds of wonderful foods in a fire pit we dug. They’d set up tents and camp. I’d sleep in the house but join them for yard cooking. One thing we never did get right was those eggs in a paper bag. They always leaked. I think maybe they make cheap paper bags around here.

My oldest graduates high school next week. He’ll be off to college. I know he’ll take a love for grilling. The younger kid and I will have to learn to outdoor cook in smaller amounts. We’ll be fine I’m sure. But we’re going to miss the oldest. That’s an empty chair at the table. He’ll come back though and some day I know he’ll bring home a girl and then little ones. We’ll all make more memories and pass on the love of barbecue cooking.

See more family stories:

Annual 4th of July Cook Out (to Honor the Military)
A Week at Cedar Island, NC (fun in the sun and grilling on the deck)
Day Trip to Ocracoke Island, NC (lovely village and four wheel drive beach)
River Rescue (my son Eli saves a drowing teen at cook out)

Adventures of Grill Girl:

Working on the 2009 Consumers Digest Grill Guide (and gaining 10 pounds to boot)

Stories and reviews on barbecue locations (areas, restuarants, dives):

Lexington, North Carolina
Allen & Son Barbecue (Chapel Hill, NC)
Backyard BBQ Pit (Durham, NC)

Barbecue people I've had the chance to meet and talk to:

Joe Cahn (Professional Tailgater)
Leslie Haywood (Grill Charm Inventor)

Feel free to get in touch if you have ideas for my Grilling Memories section.

 

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