The first barbecue of the year.
Yesterday brought sunshine, clear skies, and the first barbecue of the year. It would be at A.'s house, as most family gatherings are, a grand house on the lakefront designed with large parties in mind. At least forty people can be accommodated at the tables in the formal dining room and various eating areas in the huge kitchen. And then there is the terrace, on which Y. is busying himself with piles of coal and heaps of food. D. has prepared a vat of chicken wings, marinating in ginger and wine, piles of pork chops seasoned with soy sauce and more wine, and huge bone-in steaks heady with cracked black pepper and 18-year-old Chivas Regal. (I am not making that up).
Before dinner K. and I set off in the kayak, paddling against the current and occasionally finding ourself being turned around in circles, and the entire time I worry about tipping the boat over (which does not happen). When we come back (helped along by the current), people are in the kitchen threading bright chunks of peppers and onions with shrimps and scallops onto skewers, and Y. is grilling away madly outside. The first platters of grilled steak and pork chops head into the kitchen, amongst bowls of green salad and potato salad and loaves of garlic bread. I grab a little of everything, take my laden plate out to the terrace, with the view across the water before me. The pork chops are perfect - Y. is a master - and the steak is terrific, peppery and intense.
After the first few waves of steaks and chops and wings and kebabs comes off the grill, the grill comes off and the younger generation - by younger I mean under 30, including myself - descends on the barbecue (one of those Weber kettle grills) with hot dogs speared on long skewers, held over the hot coals. This is what they refer to as Hong-Kong-style barbecue, where the skewered food is held directly over the coals instead of placed on the grill, and it is terrific fun. Even though I am nearly full, I succumb to a hot dog, perfectly browned by the coals, the skin just crisp in the soft bun. Later there are spicy hot links and more ginger chicken wings, drizzled with honey, but I am full, and there is still dessert to come.
Finally, it is time for s'mores. I've been waiting all winter for these, for the chance to spear two marshmallows on the prongs of my barbecue fork, turning them over the coals until browned on all sides, squishing them between two graham cracker squares along with a piece of (dark) chocolate, crunchy and soft and sweet. The first marshmallow catches on fire, as it always does, but I manage to blow it out before it blackens beyond recognition. I eat one, and then another, and then another. At last, I am unable to eat another bite, and it's time to go home. D. sends me off with an extra (uncooked) steak, which I will save for another night. I regret that I did not eat any chicken wings or hot links slathered in honey. But it is only May, and there is a whole summer of barbecues left ahead. I can't wait.