The first major snowfall of the winter hit the Twin Cities a little while ago, and it was the usual commute scene, by and far. With little cars spinning their aluminum wheels in vain, across unruly intersections, with all the get-up-and-go, it seemed, of hamster balls in peanut butter. And if they got through that, they generally were OK, until they got home that is, and found themselves at once mired at the end of the driveway. It was that kind of day. Most folk were able to make their way along well enough, slow and steady, like smoking a good brisket. Except, I suppose, those over-eager souls who stared glumly at their steering wheels from the bottom of ditches, cell phone in hand. Suffice it was a crummy day to drive around in Minnesota, but dare I say a glorious one in which to light the BBQ, and toss on a couple of steaks! That is what we did anyways. And if you have a moment, and a hot chocolate handy, I’ll tell you a little more about it.
By suppertime, the snow which had been falling all the day long, seasoning the land so beautifully, had also conveniently tapered off into a scattered few serenely falling flakes. And the usual Alberta clipper, fraught with bone-penetrating cold, and icy gales, had not yet descended from what frosty latitudes once conceived. Hence a moment of grace in the blizzard time line had presented itself, and given enough time and wit, a patron of the pit will usually muckle onto such windows of opportunity, and exploit it. Like a lab monkey to the happy button, we exploit it indeed.
Whilst the neighborhood softly bustled under a gray sky, with the sounds of snow blowers and shovels grinding over iced concrete, I placed a lovely rib eye steak over the coals, followed by a thick porterhouse. Nothing like putting meat to flame to greet the winter, meeting it halfway, as they say. A sort of gesture unto the thrones of ice, stating to yourself I suppose, that tho the wintry tiers may be advancing, long be it before you hang up your tongs. Besides, I like steak. And I liked how they sizzled in the relative hush of a snowy night, and how good the heat felt bellowing out of the pit amid a world where snowy spruce bows gently bent. I flipped the steaks, searing the other sides over the pit’s fiery bosom. Tossed on another chunk of cherry wood, then hit the beef with a little garlic and onion salt. I know we keepers of the pit are known for our fancy rubs and intricate marinades, but with a good steak people, this is about as clever as we get. There is something very satisfying, and primal, about keeping it simple where steak is concerned. And at the tail of a tempest, simple seemed the way to go.
Tucking the old cow indirect, and putting the lid on, I slipped my hands into the familiar pockets of the smoking jacket, and watched the evening transpire. I enjoyed the warm light peeking out through grill damper, and how the wood smoke accompanied it, in soft, aromatic tendrils. And tho the tweety birds were all hunkered down, a small squadron of Canadian geese honked and chortled overhead, southbound, their feathery wings stroking through the still, night air like paint brushes to canvas. I liked that. I fancied greatly the way a sound wave traveled this eve, hushed and intimate, and with great touch, the way it always does after a fresh snow fall. There is a serenity found at the end of a snow storm, whence the last flakes have waned. A golden hour of acoustic magic, and a white splendor to tug the soul. A giddy expanse of time where even a grown man will recoil into a youthful state again, and for a moment, when the neighbors aren’t so much looking, frolic as if he were ten again.
And the wood smoke gently curled.