For some folks, grilling is a social activity.
They rule at the center of their designer outdoor kitchen, flipping expensive steaks on a propane stove and telling jokes with equal aplomb to a starry-eyed crowd of grill groupies.
Then there are others, like me, who consider barbecuing to be a solitary occupation far removed from the madding crowd.
Only wooden chips or old-fashioned, plain charcoal briquettes are allowed in our world along with a healthy dose of lighter fluid.
We grill under the shifting shade of an oak tree, not a wooden or metal awning, and permit only selected people and animals as company.
Usually only one other individual, an acolyte of sorts, is permitted entrance to the hidden lair of grilldom.
That one person is most often my son, a taciturn sort who understands that cooking outdoors settles best with a modicum of conversation.
We grunt, sweat, bear the heat stoically and drink an occasional beer for the sole purpose of remaining hydrated.There is some talk, to be sure, but nothing approaching what society considers intellectual discourse.
Our kind of grilling is generally conducted on the hottest days of the year, so the merciless sun and scarcity of clouds are often a source of conversation.
The dogs, who unlike other people can venture into and out of our domain without invitation, are also a source of occasional comments.
“That one is looking good,” one of us says of the hound. A few minutes later, the other chimes in, “He sure likes the smell of that meat.”
The menu is generally unchanged and unchallenging – hamburgers and sausage.
We look at the meat, debate putting the top on the grill for a few minutes to smoke more flavor, and then consider removing the lid and flipping the burgers and sausage.
The sounds of hunger sometimes permeate the distance and my wife, who is the only other person who can enter our domain without a handwritten note, checks on us periodically.
“Need something else to drink?” she asks. Or, the more usual comment, “People are getting hungry. Will the food be ready soon?”
We glare and snicker at her, in a nice and loving way, of course, for my son and I know full well that grilled food is ready when it is ready and not a moment before.
Even the faraway sounds of kids playing, fussing, making up and playing again, around the corner in the front yard, are not enough to hurry up the process.
Good grilled food, according to our notion, must be suitably burned to be properly inhaled at the proper time.
But when the adults start going into the shed to arm themselves with pitchforks, shovels and rakes for an attack on our bastion, we relent and begin to lead the parade of meat to the mismatched tables and chairs.
Everyone is so busy eating that talking sputters to a halt, my kind of conversation.
Ahh, the sweet charred smell of success.