Man or Beast

Thanks to our cave ancestors, men sometimes cook, especially if the cooking is done outside. The grill brings out the long buried need of the average man to burn pieces of captured meat. In the case of my family, I wanted to cook burgers at the lake on the outside grill. I prepped all of the necessities, forming burgers from my homemade mix of finely chopped short rib and chuck meat. I developed the recipe over many years and friends have commented on how delicious my burgers were without knowing about my secret mix. It took extra time, but was completely worth it. The sides were my equally delicious potato salad, corn of the cob and chilled watermelon.

While completing the prep work in the kitchen, I took a break to go outside to start the grill. Being a former girl scout, I can make a decent fire. It never missed my notice that we were taught fire skills without the benefit of boys around, so they probably never knew we had them. As I waited for the briquettes to heat up and turn white around the edges, I sat back, smoked and enjoyed a glass of adult lemonade. The adult lemonade had some vodka in it and lots of lime wedges. I used lemon slices in the prepared kids lemonade version so everyone would know the difference. Plus the kids won’t touch anything with green in it. Steve and the kids returned from the lake and I told the kids to go inside to hang up their bathing suits and change before dinner. Steve sat down with me and helped himself to a drink from my glass while poking my briquettes.

I left to go inside to finish my work. Once the burgers were ready, I buttered the buns and set the table. By that time, the kids were available to help with the chores and came outside to grill the burgers with me. They described all the fun they had on the boat and a large snapping turtle that swam close to the dock. Daisy was concerned about her toes being bitten off when she next dangled her legs in the water. Junior told her that he would watch if it came near. Their arms and faces were warm and tan and Daisy’s curls looked golden in the late afternoon sun.

When Steve joined us, I was standing at the grill getting ready to flip the burgers. He asked to hold the metal spatula and I asked why he needed it. He explained that he was “ready to take over” and I told him that I was alright with the cooking. Steve stood silently next to me watching my work. It looked like he didn’t know what to do next. I told him that he could relax.

Dinner was delicious and we took the watermelon out on the deck to spit some seeds. Junior was a good spitter, and between giggles, Daisy spat a few also. When it was my turn, I got lucky and one of mine went really far. I noticed that Junior had used his entire body when he spat, and repeated what he did. Junior was proud of me and clapped. Steve decided that he could definitely spit farther than me and joined us. He asked for a practice spit, but Daisy pointed out that no one else got one, so he huffed a little and let his seed fly.

After that, I returned to the kitchen for clean up. There were a lot of dishes and when Junior and Daisy came in to help, but I asked them to get the campfire snacks out first. Soon, the marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate were all laid out on a tray and the kids went outside to gather sticks. Steve came in for another drink and stood for a minute while I washed the dishes. I asked him if he wanted to help and he silently starting drying. When the kids came in to tell him they had found enough little sticks, he tossed down the drying towel and left to start the fire in the pit. I knew that Steve was probably upset on my refusal to hand over the spatula to him to finish cooking the burgers, but I just couldn’t help myself.

Steve seemed in a better mood while we toasted the marshmallows and kept a great fire going. I took the kids inside to get ready for bed and they quickly fell asleep from all the fun they had on the lake. I joined Steve outside carrying a tray of cocktails with a bowl of his favorite snack mix. We sat quietly for a few minutes, mostly due to exhaustion. He asked me why I wouldn’t let him cook the burgers and I told him that he may not have noticed that I was able to cook them as well as the next guy.

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