You do not have to spend a lot of time around me before you discover that I am from Texas. And like all Texans I enjoy that most Texan of pursuits, cooking meat with fire. However, being a dutiful child of Big Oil and Gas, I am accustomed to getting my fire from a source that makes BBQ purists shudder. That’s right – propane. It’s so civilized and convenient. You turn a knob, press a button, and poof! Fire. You want more fire, you turn it up. You want less fire, you turn it down. When you’re done, you turn it off. Clean and simple.
But I live in Conakry. Although propane does exist here, gas grills are rare, the propane is expensive, and I don’t have a whole lot of trust in tanks of pressurized highly flammable gases obtained in Guinea. This means it’s time to learn about charcoal. I’ve had several huge sacks of charcoal hanging out for months while I assembled the necessary equipment: a charcoal grill, grill tools, and this cylinder thing you use to heat up the coals when you can’t get lighter fluid.
So tonight I finally pulled it all together: charcoal, tools, and scrumptious tender Texas sirloin steaks hand-imported from my last R&R in an insulated tote bag in my luggage. Time to cook meat with fire! It took me a couple of tries to get the coals lit, but they finally caught, and ten minutes later when I found myself gazing at the blue-flamed inferno I had to somehow transfer to the grill without bodily injury I wondered if I had gotten myself in over my head. And yet, somehow it all worked out. Yes, I still have a lot to learn about temperature regulation and all that, but I have made fire the primitive caveman way, with nothing but my own two hands, a variety of advanced mass-produced specially-designed implements, and one of those long-nozzled lighters full of butane. And I cooked meat on it.
And it was good.