I found myself contemplating a color today...charcoal. My kids think it's a shade of black, but I don't think of it that way. It's a very specific shade of grey. When I was a child, my father would often cook out on the grill. He always used Kingsford charcoal briquettes. I have strong memories of the blue, white and red bags.

Dad would dump a mound of briquettes into the BBQ and neatly arrange them into a pyramid. Then he would spray the stack with an excessive amount of lighter fluid, deftly light a match, toss it onto the pyramid and create an eyebrow searing, two-story high inferno. That was a best part of cooking outside. Well, almost the best part.

See, I would watch the briquettes turn from coal black to a red hot coal covered with a fine ash of charcoal grey. That color. Dad would tap a coal or two with his tongs to see the hot interior. He had a sixth sense about when it was the perfect time to slap steaks or hamburgers down on the grill. I loved that intense sizzle sound the meat would make and the smell of the fragrant smoke.

Many years later, when I got married, my parents gifted us with a little red kettle drum style BBQ. We tried a few times to resurrect the skill our father's had mastered in order to "cook out" but we just didn't have that special talent. Our coals never got that fine charcoal grey coating hiding the very ancient soul that is cooking with fire.

Maybe we needed to use way more lighter fluid than was technically safe. Maybe the perfect shade of charcoal is only achieved through risking your eyebrows.


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