A Bold, New Grilling World Awaits
We change for different reasons.
Sometimes, it comes to us naturally. Other times, it's forced upon us.
Then there are those moments when a spouse is involved.
I've been grilling since my dad died when I was 13. My technique, like my wardrobe, hasn't changed much since then: lump charcoal/briquets and the application of heat. I switched from fluid to a chimney starter some time ago, and favor an old-fashioned Weber kettle. No gas. Nothing fancy.
My wife had been on me all week about going to a grill demonstration at Elliot's Ace in Elm Grove, a session being hosted by a friend of the family who is a great cook and a grill aficionado. He's been touting the virtues of the Traeger system for years. You might've seen them in a hardware store near you: they're the oil-drum-with-a-locomotive-chimney deals that run on wood pellets instead of charcoal or gas. You pour the pellets into the rectagular deal on the left. An auger churns them into an electric starter just inside the round drum A fan under the box on the left drives air and thus, control the heat. The pellets come in different flavors, so you can change them up at your leisure. Flick a switch to start the auger and to spark the fire, give it ten minutes to warm up and you're off.
I was reluctant, saying that my old Weber rig was fine (I refurbished it last summer, adding years to it's life span and giving me the self-satisfaction that comes with rehabbing a favorite resource) and that we really didn't need to spend money on something I didn't think we needed. Plus, I said, our friend had told us that he only had a handful of the Traeger models we were considering and that they could be out by the time we got to the store.
That's when she told me that she'd already gone ahead and ordered one. Thus, our 'let's-go-see" session had become a "let's-go-pick-up-our-new-grill" mission. I, in effect, was going to see something I'd already bought.
We went with a smaller model since there are only two of us at home most of the year. My buddy delivered it and put it together (he knows I'm challenged that way) while giving me a brief tutorial. I practiced the start-up and did the pre-cook seasoning procedure that night, lovingly covered the grill to protect it from early morning rain, and now prepare to drop my first rare flesh upon it's shiny porcelain grates.
All the while, my Weber sits silently on the deck. Covered. Cold. Unused. If it had a mind, it would probably be saying, "WTF? You just gave me new guts! We were having a great grill season--remember the three hours you spent with me the morning of your daughter's graduation party, cooking all those brats, hamburgers and hot dogs? Did I let you down? I never flared, never went out. And how about those pork chops the other night? Bobby Flay would've been proud! How many times have I made you look good to guests? And what about all those New Year's Eves when you and your wife did steak and lobster in the freezing cold? I cooked your grub AND kept you warm as the clock neared 12! And now, you allow this interloper on my very deck where I stand silent sentry?!?"
I project a bit, but you understand.
I'm a creature of habit, and never felt the urge to change from charcoal to gas, much less wood pellets. I paid cash money for the Traeger, so there was no fiscal incentive to take the plunge. This is purely spouse-driven, with my wife admitting that she will be more willing to grill with the Traeger system (a flip of a switch turns it on without the mess of charcoal, and the predictable, even heat means no worries about meal-wrecking hot-spots). My bud and his wife use it as their summer oven, baking lasagna and other dishes with the Traeger so they don't have to heat up the kitchen.
It's a bold new world I'm about to enter. I'm sure we'll still use the Weber, especially for bigger events where we need more grill space. The Traeger, though, will be the first guy out of the bullpen when it's time to cook outdoors. Wood pellets instead of charcoal. A flip of an electric switch instead of matches, newspaper and a chimney. A lifetime routine changes. A new frontier awaits.
I go in with an open mind and a new-found appetite for change, while an old friend sits covered and cold, idling nearby.