Smell is the sense most tied to memory. It's hard for us to inhale the burning coals of charcoal or the wafting clouds of backyard cheeseburger without remembering you, your grill, and the twilights when the magic-hour sunlight swam around the smoke and the skewers were plated as the porch lights came on. You sat down at the table, and told us to dig in. Then, it seemed hard to imagine a greater grilling hero than you.
Then we started getting older. We realized that Fred's dad could probably beat you in an arm wrestle... he was a Marine. We sort of decided you aren't the best burger chef in the world after we tried Shake Shack. I'm sorry if we never told you any of this, but one day, we figured out you aren't Superman. Even if you do own the same underpants… and once changed clothes in a phone booth.
We realized, inevitably, you aren't perfect. We worshipped you in childhood, ignored or rebelled against you as teens, and as adults, we realized that those days out there were about so much more than dinner. We got to see you as a person, to catch a glimpse of what you were like, before dad-dom grabbed you by the sack and turned you into a responsible guardian. Eventually, we realized, dad is kind of cool.
The truth is, if we are lucky enough to still be able to see you now -- hunched over a grill, making the same punny jabs and blackened burgers -- we should consider ourselves lucky. Maybe your socks (and pants) are a little higher. Maybe we need to speak a little louder when we're talking to you. Maybe the jokes are even more antiquated than they were 20 years ago ("weenie" is funny at any age). But that wasn't important to us then. And it's not important to us now.
So much of cooking is rooted in the mistakes; meals made better by embracing imperfections instead of living within their limits -- especially out in the elements and on the grill. Burned edges don't mean a broken dish. They add character. The same goes for you, dad.
You aren't Superman. You aren't perfect. But you've always been there -- on summer nights with a soundtrack of crickets and radio baseball, and everywhere in between. And now, we can truly appreciate it.
So, we want to say thanks. To you, the grilling champion of the world.