Surreal Summer In The City
Grilling season? What is this grill of which you speak?
This, I think, is one of the fundamental disconnects between life in a really big city like New York, and life in the rest of the country. The back yard barbecue? Well, when you don’t have a back yard, there’s no point to worrying about whether to buy citronella candles or those new OFF! clip-ons. You may have room for the people, but there is no place for a grill. I read an article in the New York Times food section last week about grilling food over an open wood fire. I don’t know who that article was aimed at, but it certainly wasn’t people living in Manhattan. I know that in much of the country, grilling in the back yard is a quintessential summer activity. Honestly, though, to me it seems like something that happens in some kind of alternative universe. You know, the universe where I look up at the kitchen counters and get gold stars when I turn in a paper. It seems to go with a suburban, married-with-kids lifestyle that also seems unbelievably remote to me in my current life.
Do I grill? The sidewalks sizzle in July, does that count? I have not myself grilled so much as a hot dog any time in the last decade. (I like hot dogs, too.) I’ve had people suggest that I put a little grill “out on the balcony.” These people, too, clearly do not live in New York. I don’t even have a fire escape, much less a balcony, and I strongly suspect that if I had a balcony, open flame out there would be illegal.
If I had a grill, I would grill peaches. Man, I would be grilling peaches right and left all summer, and I would not be leaving them in their pristine majesty with maybe a minimalist mint leaf garnish. I would be topping them with whipped cream (real whipped cream made from actual cream) and drizzling them with my great-grandmother’s butterscotch sauce.
Someday I’m sure I’ll be living a grill-friendly lifestyle again. I’m also sure that when I do, I’ll miss all the great things that living in the city entails. In the mean time, I guess I’ll continue to see grilling as a cross between a vignette from my childhood and an interesting anthropological phenomenon to be studied from afar. By all means, share your observations on grilling with me. Perhaps we can write a paper for publication in some appropriate journal. And send me a hot dog when you’re done.