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The Observer paper 12/26/14

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Out from dormancy

Warm weather brings strange pleasures like hanging the laundry to dry outside on the line. The same antiseptic qualities of the sun that dries our denim and other cottons stiff inspire us to pursue small joys whether it be yard saling, fishing, sunning or preparing a jar of sun tea.

My dad once told me that people don’t wake up until they are outside under the sun. “You mean the sun comes through our windows and wakes us up?” I asked. No, he said, it was more than that — a strict step required for living bodies to start their day. Going outside was necessary or else people would be asleep even though they were moving around.

Even in the darkness of my garage, small sprouts have risen up through the dirt floor, along the edges. They droop at their tops like long-necked birds — geese tucking their beaks into their wings, cranes drinking water. Crouching in the lightless space next to the dirt floor in the garage this weekend, I squinted to see the plants. In my vision, they were glowing eventually — basically translucent with edges of yellow-green painted in.

Spring is the sensual season. The smells — sticky cottonwood, smoke from grills — are arresting. The sounds — far-off lawnmowers, rain drops — make people nostalgic. The green grass underfoot tickles and our cravings start to shift. Plans are made for outdoor kitchens and I try to eat outside as much as I can.

Whether it’s packing a picnic in my small laundry basket and taking it to the park or eating a snack on my green wool army blanket outside, I love it. I don’t mind an apple blossom petal dropping into my drink or a little rain seasoning my kebab.

The best time to eat outside, though, is when the grill is on. I was always more an observer and an eater than the cook on the grill, but now I am learning slowly by slowly. I’ve decided a few things: I prefer coal to gas and hardwood coals to charcoal briquettes. We use a chimney starter and try to cook the things that need the longest time on the grill, like meat, first. Bread and vegetables come next. To boost thermal mass, we’ve tucked a few bricks into the bottom of the grill and pour the coals around them when they are white-hot ready.

The food is really good. Truthfully though, the food is almost just a bonus to finally being able to spend time outside without a sweater.

The plants in my garage — full of still gesture and small expression — will survive for a while. Their seeds were called out from dormancy by the sun just like some of us. Lucky we aren’t rooted, though, in a dirt floor in a dark room.

Hang a bell in your favorite tree and fire up the grill as often as you can.

Send warm weather food stories, grilling tips and recipes to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


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