Fiery start to barbecue season

Paul Smith
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There's no doubt that spring is in the air. As I sit at my computer to write this column, my cheeks are burning and red from all that wonderful sunshine. Mind you, by the time you read this next weekend, we might be having snow flurries, or at the very least a hearty helping of Newfoundland's springtime specialty: rain, drizzle and fog (RDF).

We must be the only place on Earth that has an acronym for weather. You say RDF and everyone in this land knows exactly what you mean.

But seriously, the temperatures are looking good on the long-term forecast and hopefully it's a sign of a lovely warm summer - although a bit of rain here and there to keep the rivers flowing nicely would certainly be a blessing for us salmon anglers. (Sorry, golfers. It's tough for Mother Nature to keep all her clients happy.)

My barbecue reclaimed its perch on the deck this weekend. I had it tucked away in the garage for the winter, but Saturday was such a lovely day I just couldn't resist. It was high time for the season's first barbecue. I love outdoor cooking. I guess any of you that have been following my column for a while already know that full well.

My earliest recollections of outdoor cuisine were with my mother and father on their beloved angling day trips. We were living in St. John's at the time and would venture outside the overpass for a bit of trouting just about every weekend.

They had no barbecue in those days. I think propane grills were not even invented. What they did have was the timeless and still popular Coleman stove - not the propane sort that's most popular today, but the old fashioned white gas variety. That's the ones you fill up with liquid fuel and pump to pressurize. You can still buy them, and they do have several advantages over propane.

Without quoting exact numbers, white gas or naphtha burns a lot hotter than propane, especially in winter when propane is very inefficient. And in my opinion, liquid fuel stoves are the much greener choice. Think about which option leaves the least containers lying around.

So, my parents were using the green option way back in the 1960s, albeit the only choice in those days. One big can of fuel would probably last the whole summer.

I wonder sometimes, do we really progress or just get lazy? It's not that difficult to fill a stove with fuel, but we'd much rather screw on a cylinder and toss it in the trash when dinner is done.

Saving the planet aside, whether propane or naphtha, cooking a scoff on one of those camp stoves sure can tingle that olfactory epithelium. Nothing smells better that a Jigg's dinner cooking in the great outdoors. And that was my mother's specialty on the old camp stove.

Sometimes she'd fry up chicken or pork, but mostly I remember that tantalizing aroma of boiling salt beef wafting out across the pond where Dad and I would be fishing. They were certainly the best of times.

In later years, Dad bought a small barbecue that he could tote around in the back of the car. Not gas, just an old charcoal burner.

Dad never quite got the hang of barbecuing. He burnt up just about everything. First off, he could never wait until all the starter fluid was burned off before putting the meat on. Then when the flames died down our blackened meat would cook slowly over half-hearted coals. So, around the time we were chewing the beef, the coals would be fully ablaze and just perfect to properly sear a juicy steak.

Patience in barbecuing was not one of my father's virtues. He may have done much better on one of today's modern gas grills.

Just as my grill hit the deck today, my daughter Megan called and told me they were coming out around the bay for supper. Perfect. We would have a family barbecue. My granddaughter Rory would be having her first backyard barbecue at the tender age of just two months. She might not be able to eat cheeseburgers just yet, but she'll be there, and will certainly take centre stage in getting attention.

There will be many more barbecues, and I can't wait until she gets her little apron on and helps me out on the grill. I hope she like moose sausages. I never barbecue without a few moose dog appetizers.

Today, as usual, the sausages went on first. I like to get them past the flare-up stage before putting on the main course.

Towering inferno

Things didn't go exactly as planned on this season opener. We decided on homemade bacon cheeseburgers with caesar salad and baked potatoes on the side. Unwisely, I decided to grill the bacon atop a square of tin foil. All was going well. The burgers were just about done and the sausages patiently awaited our appetites on the warming rack above the bacon. You may be able to guess what happened. The pooled grease from the bacon caught alight. I'm talking serious fire, not a little flare-up.

Flames leaped up and burned the sausages to a crisp. There was nothing left of the bacon but smoldering ashes. I was reminded of my father's grilled chicken legs. Thankfully, the burgers escaped the inferno unscathed. Supper was slightly downgraded to cheeseburgers minus the bacon. Rory was too little to make fun of Grandpa. That will change, I'm sure.

All the fresh air made Rory sleepy, and she slept right through supper. Her first barbecue will make a fine bedtime story someday.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard's Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at

Geographic location: Newfoundland, St. John's

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Recent comments

  • Interested Reader
    April 30, 2012 - 12:38

    I love Paul Smith's columns. They sure take my mind off work and make me long for peaceful outings from yesterday. His love of the outdoors and his family, combined with his skill for presenting interesting events in his life, make for great reading.