Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day Memories and Grilling Thoughts

Those grilling days of yesteryear
As a kid, Labor Day marked the end of summer. The final hurrah, the last chance to make any bragging points for the pending What I Did On Summer Vacation report all kids had to give when going back to school.  
The trick was to do something nobody else had done, or stand out in an admirable way-admirable to peers at any rate.

Our Labor Day Picnic sponsored by the local scout troop was a fairly good way to do both at once.  There a person could excel to greatness by simply winning a game or contest.  There were plenty of both to chose from....sack races, foot races, egg races...pie eating, hot dog eating and more.

Most of the time, the same kids seemed to win and why not?  They were bigger or smaller, faster or more coordinated,  or they could just plain eat everybody else under the table.  Simple genetics.   So, although I participated in the contests, I never expected to win and considered myself a well adjusted youngster for having come to that workable conclusion.

Oh, I still gave it my all....poised at the starting line, I looked the part of a true contestant.  But then, with head tucked down and shoulders rounded, I'd  launch forward at the whistle and fall flat on my face.

Call it my signature move. The first few times it happened, I became the subject of great ridicule.  That first week of school was hard enough without being pointed at, laughed at, whispered about and....the very worse thing possible-imitated.

But then as the years and Labor Day picnics came and went, I did my move so often, it wasn't even noteworthy anymore.  In a weird form of cosmic irony, the very thing that garnered me a moment's attention-albeit the wrong kind-wasn't worth gossiping about any more.   Oh, once in a while somebody new would come along, point at me and ask, "Isn't that the kid who....?"  But their pals would wave it off with a "Yeah, what else is new?" Talk about embarrassing!  That really made me want to hide in the nearest locker, which unfortunately was two sizes too small.

I became indifferent to these Labor Day festivities....attendance was family mandatory, so there was no way to avoid the inevitable parental encouragement...."Go on now, get into the spirit of it."  UGH!

As fate would have it, I did finally actually win one of those !&#%!&@$!#! races....move and all!

Rather than dreading the picnic that year, I decided to just go with it....enjoy it 
Psych myself into a different space, so to speak.  And it seemed to work.

A sense of peace, of readiness and determination came over me.

But even was like the universe was agreeing with me for once.

I felt it, from the moment we set up our picnic table.  We'd finally gotten the prime spot, under the had usually been taken by the time our family got to the park. This told me the day was very special indeed.
Sure, there were the same kids, same hot dogs, same park.

But there was something different in the air as I stepped to the starting line. There was a confidence, a sense of ....possibility.

The starting whistle sounded and the race began with, of course, my signature move.

But I was able to regain my composure before kissing dirt this time...and I ran.  It didn't matter to me if anyone was cheering or not. The only thing that mattered was the streamer up ahead, marking the finish line.

For some incredible reason, I knew before the race was even half over that victory would be mine.

I felt the streamer stretch across my chest and arms...and then, when maximum tension was achieved I felt that ribbon surrender with a snap to the inevitable force of my youthful determination.  I had won.

It wasn't until I turned around to shake hands with my opponent that I discovered there wasn't one.  Apparently the other runner tripped over a loose shoe lace a few feet back and was still recovering....a crumpled, teary-eyed heap left mangled in my dust.

I won a cheerleader's style baton and tried to learn twirling....and almost gave myself a concussion when the thing came crashing down on my head after a missed catch.

These days Labor Day is much less strenuous.  It's just us "old folks" here at home and we're inclined to stay around the house and eat something grilled while watching a movie or playing music. A kinder, gentler celebration, if you get my drift.

Grilling Thoughts
Jack likes grilled anything....I think most of us do.  There's just a special flavor you don't get from any other method of cooking. As to which item(s) to grill?  It could be anything, from beef to fish, fruit to veggies...anything is possible if you just remember a few things.

Grill only items that will stand up to grilling!  Mahi Mahi fish works great!  But perhaps that flounder fillet you've been thinking about would be better if it were broiled or pan seared.  

The difference?  Thickness and texture.  Flounder is a thinner's texture is less dense than Mahi Mahi.  I've seen some gallant efforts to grill flounder fillet....sad.  Very sad.

Try something out of the ordinary...Shish Kabobs.  Or a grilled corn on the cob side dish.  Or let 'em really think you've lost it-grill a pizza!

The sky's the limit, when it comes to food and why not?   Explore!  Invent!
Happy Labor Day!

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