I was born in Dallas, Texas and raised in a 70s ranch-style home in the suburbs. The back of the house featured a spacious L-shaped deck – my favorite childhood spot. The deck was stained cherry red, with a pretty lattice work above for shade, and a built-in bench and swing. My brothers and I spent hours upon hours playing on the deck in the summertime – skipping rope, swinging and reading books, and propping the hose on the lattice work just right to create a cool water spray we considered as fun as any water park in town. We also gathered wooden spoons from the kitchen and used them outside as microphones for “singing competitions.” I confess, I always gave one brother a perfect 10, but downgraded the other’s score. Don’t ask me why I did it. They still give me grief for it.
In Dallas, the weather was favorable for grilling year-round. My parents hosted parties on the beautiful deck and my dad would grill up hamburgers, ribs, chicken, and his famous fajitas. The food was always wonderful, but the grilling added family stress because of the legendary flare-ups. I’m not sure if that particular gas grill was poorly constructed or not, but we all knew what to do the second my dad yelled, “Get me some water!” My brothers and I immediately stopped everything else, made a bee-line for the kitchen, grabbed the first generally water-tight container we saw, filled it, and run as fast as our legs could carry us to the deck. My dad quickly doused the flame (and unfortunately the meat). I never thought the flare-up drill was strange. Well, I did question why the grill produced huge, glorious flames every-so-often, but I thought that was the price you paid for grilling.
When my husband and I were newlyweds, Pete was happily preparing to cook a meal on our new grill when I asked if I should get him a pail of water. He looked at me quizzically and asked why. “Well, for the flare-ups of course!” I explained the entire “flare-up and douse” process and we laughed until our bellies hurt. I’d never seen the humor in the water-dousing drill before.
I haven’t seen a single grill flare-up since I left that modest Texas house with the restful back deck. My dad grills almost every time I visit without producing a single shooting flame or urgent cry for “Water!” He has produced some amazing dinners on his new grill, though. He found a recipe for hamburgers that makes me smile just thinking about it. The beef is mixed with sour cream and fresh herbs, topped with grilled red onions, and served on a toasted whole wheat bun. I had forgotten about this creation and found it the other day in my family recipe book and decided to give it a whirl. Oh my. These burgers are good. The sour cream gives the meat a cool flavor and the herbs add a springtime touch. It makes me contemplate adding a hose to our patio roof and busting out the wooden spoons.