Grilling Just Isn't The Same Without My Dad

My father is an integral part of my BBQ experience as much as the Weber grill itself. My father was a BBQ pit master, before the TV show, before Food Network TV or any timed reality cooking show.

He bought the pictured red 26 inch Weber grill in 1965 or 1966 for $ 80.00 and it became the centerpiece of our backyard in West Pullman as where the food was cooked as well as where lessons on cooking where shared and where great conversations where held. The action started and ended with that pit not to mention some great grilled food.

The last time I visited with my father last summer (when he was still well), he gave me his beloved pit, I accepted it with great honor. He was no longer using this huge grill (it was in his storage shed), he and my brother were using a smaller 22 inch Weber grill that used to be my grandmother’s.

I took and stuffed it in the trunk of my Chevrolet Malibu, brought it home and rebuilt and cleaned it up (though my brother did a great job preparing it for me), and I even adding a thermometer on top.

I’ve used it a couple of times but it’s a big grill for big meals & parties and represents my father and his larger than life personality well and reminds me of the large shoes I have to fill.

On Sunday I used my own barrel BBQ cooker to make my favorite beer can chicken (with thanks for the recipe to Chicago Tribune writer John Kass), and had a few turkey links as well but it was my first time doing a significant BBQ since my father took ill last December.

Every time I’ve grilled on the weekends I’ve either been with my dad (from the time I lived at home or was visiting him), or since I’ve been on my own I called him while grilling, we’d exchanged ideas, recipes, techniques and a few jokes.

Yesterday I was at the grill and it wasn’t the same, don’t get me wrong the food was great and I have my dad to thank for his knowledge and tutelage but not having that conversation with him was tough. My dad is still sick, going on 3 months now, still not conscious, still having various complications but still fighting.

But yesterday once my meat was cooking well and I could step back for a minute, I had to go inside and sit on my couch and compose myself. Despite that my father’s spirit will never leave me, his lessons are char-grilled in my brain, its his presence, voice and candor that I miss so much.

Living here in Chicago, we LIVE for spring and summer and my dad was famous for saying we’d do stuff “when the weather breaks”, whether it was fishing, flying kites, outdoor home improvements or of course grilling, he looked forward to getting outside.

And yesterday I was outside and he’s in a hospital room hooked up to a bunch of machines. I know he would tell me to keep cooking, not to worry about him but I can’t help to think about all the times around a grill that I learned so much, ate so good and laughed so hard.

But he must have known because he passed the grill on to me, which means now I carry on the tradition.

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    Charles W. Johnson

    I'm a lifelong writer (since I was 8 years old), and have been doing this blog in some form or fashion since 2004. I'm a DePaul University alum (LA&S '99), and know and love Chicago. Writing is my passion, what I write is what I feel, know and have experienced. I simply want to share my thoughts, experiences and opinions. And I appreciate you taking to the time to read what I have to say.

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