Fire up the grill

Paul Smith
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It looks like this summer is light-years better than last for most outdoor activities, except for salmon fishing. The high temperatures and lack of rain have undoubtedly left many with the “low water blues” as I wrote about in last week’s column.

If I recall correctly, the mercury never hit 20 C until at least early August in 2011. But 2012 is shaping up to be a stellar summer for camping, swimming, mountain biking, sailing or whatever else tickles your outdoor palate.

I love to grill. I fired up the ’cue last year even when the temperature was just a single digit, but it’s a whole lot more fun with a balmy summer breeze rustling the maples in the backyard. Patio barbecuing and cooking is the essence of summer, in my world.

Grilling stuck in my bloodstream during my preteen years, when I was living in Gander. All the boys in the neighbourhood would get together in the evenings just after dark for a barbecue. Of course, in those days, long before the popularity of gas grills, our cooking was done on real, honest-to-goodness coals. We’d light the coals at sunset in one of our parents’ backyards, and sip a Coke or Pepsi while the flames transformed grimy black charcoal through glowing red to white hot. I remember and cherish those times like it was yesterday.

You can barbecue most anything. I’ve grilled lobster, corn in the husk, and just about everything in between. I think my diverse use of charcoal and gas was sparked and inspired early in life by Alvin Tucker, one of my Gander barbecue buddies.

Alvie, as we called him, had no burger patties, wieners, or pork chops on one particularly sultry central Newfoundland evening. What does one do when none of the mainstream barbecue delights are available? Necessity is the mother of invention, and even young Newfoundlanders are a resourceful lot.

Alvie dug out a rabbit from deep in the lowest crevices of his basement deep freeze. “This will do,” says Alvie.

We boys questioned his culinary choice, but on we marched, a group of seven or eight to my parents’ backyard.

I can still hear my mother’s reaction to Alvie’s rabbit.

“Max, come out and see this!” My mother and father talked and laughed about barbecuing a rabbit for years.

Back in those days, the early 1970s, grilling in the backyard was new to Newfoundlanders, and those who grilled at all stuck to more traditional fare like steak, hamburgers and pork chops. Even chicken was a challenge to my dad, but that’s whole other fiery story. He tended to overcook things just a bit.

Anyway, my mother helped Alvie out by wrapping his rabbit in aluminum foil complemented with a few onions, barbecue sauce and a wee ration of pork. Onto the coals it went aside our hotdogs and hamburgers.  There’s no doubt who had the healthiest meal, although I don’t recall that issue entering the conversation at the time. Cholesterol was not in our 12-year-old vocabularies.

The rabbit turned out absolutely delicious. We all wanted a taste. My father even came out in the yard for a bite. Alvie was now the master chef of Elizabeth Drive.

For my part, I’ve grilled plenty of rabbits since those early barbecuing days. I’ve even grilled them on a stick over an open fire. Now that’s the best-tasting rabbit ever — just a dash of salt and a generous portion of black pepper. Yes, I carry a pepper grinder into the woods with me.

The trick to woods grilling is letting the fire burn down till you’re left with real coals glowing red hot. That’s the sweet spot for grilling rabbit, moose, salmon or whatever else you have on hand. You might recall me talking about grilling salmon by the riverside some time ago. Now that’s an unbeatable summer treat.

Out of the woods and back on the patio or deck, grill whatever is in season. On my daughter’s birthday, just a few weeks back, guess what was in season? The lobster fishery was in full swing.

Allison, my youngest daughter, loves shellfish and all sorts of seafood. She wanted lobster for her 23rd birthday celebration. I picked up lobsters for all.

Goldie and I boiled the lobsters the day before and kept them in the refrigerator until it was time to fire up the ’cue on the big day. Birthdays are a big deal at our house and are always celebrated in fine culinary style; at least to the best of our abilities.

The lobsters went on the grill along with other assorted treats like steak, grilled vegetables and moose sausage. Lobsters on a hot grill can kick up quite a mouth-watering aroma, an incense of seawater and the crustaceans’ own succulent white flesh. It’s quite tantalizing.

The moose sausage appetizers were absolutely essential to temporarily quell our excited appetites. It was a feast fit for kings, queens, and darling daughters on their special days.

Our new granddaughter was in on the festivities, as well, but she isn’t quite ready for lobster just yet, although she was a tad fascinated by the sight of the boney looking critters.

Fire up the grill this summer and let your imagination take you places your tastebuds have never travelled. Relax, have a glass of wine or beer, and enjoy the season with family and friends.


 Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay,

fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at

Geographic location: Gander, Newfoundland

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