It's funny, one of the first times I ever really appreciated a hamburger was at camp. It was my first summer at sleep-away camp and after my initial desolation I embraced the experience. Silver Lake quickly became one of my favorite places in the world. There was unprecedented freedom and late nights of whispering and reading with a flashlight while counselors played music and chatted behind the curtain to their room. It was swimming and crafts, campfires and color wars. It was a whole other world from the city I grew up in and I reveled in every moment.
The first time we had a cookout it was enormous fun. The grill was outside of our cabin and our counselors were going to cook the meal. We were dispatched to collect sticks for the marshmallows and to pick up and organizes supplies from the dining hall. There were hamburgers and potato chips, with slices of lettuce and tomato alongside. I'm sure there must have been some sort of vegetable but if there was it escapes my memory. Eventually burgers began coming off the grill. I bit into a soft squishy bun layered with ketchup, the hot, smoky taste of the meat giving way to the softness of the tomato and the sharp crunch of the onion. At that moment it was easily the best thing I had ever eaten. Nothing was organic, the meat was well done, and the buns were generic but the flavor of the grill made everything taste wonderful. It was one of those moments that crystallize in your memory. Afterwards we roasted marshmallows for s'mores. To this day I prefer my chocolate firmly alongside my gooey marshmallow-graham cracker sandwich. Afterwards we told ghost stories and gossiped about the boys who had their own campfire far away from us. Usually one or two of them would wander down to see us, chaperoned by one of their counselors who always had some pressing reason to speak to one of our female counselors. We counted fireflies and watched the sun set over the water. It was paradise.
Years later I became a grill cook. I always loved the heat of the coals and the unpredictability of the fire. Last year we roasted marshmallows in the big green egg but this year we've got the wood burning oven and a cast iron Tuscan grill that fits perfectly inside. It's only a matter of time till we make that first burger. I can almost taste it already.