The way we talk about going to the lake, you’d think we went out there every weekend, when the sad reality is that even in a really good year, we’re lucky to make it to the lake five or six times. We used to do a thing called “lake school,” where I’d transport the kids to the lake and we’d do school at the lake, with breaks for swimming and nature walks, of course. Sometimes I took whole classes of kids out there for an afternoon.
We haven’t had lake school for a couple of years, and we haven’t been to the lake at all since May, when it was really high. I have zero interest in going there during our Texas summer, because I firmly believe I would melt—but all summer I’ve been telling Jasper that once the weather cooled off a little bit, we would do school at the lake.
So, today was the day. The high was only in the mid 80s! It was a beautiful, sunny, breezy day. I had a plan. It was a great plan. The kids love it when we take a grill with us to the lake and grill some of our food, so I had planned to grill stuff for both breakfast and lunch.
The first hitch in our plan came when Jasper couldn’t find our little “pod” grill that we take on such excursions. Walter had recently reorganized the carport, and the grill was no longer where we thought it would be. I texted my husband but didn’t receive an answer, so the only thing to do was to fall back on Plan B. Normally there would not be a Plan B that was sufficient to deal with this problem, but a couple years ago I actually bought a replacement pod grill to use when our current one wears out, because I really do like it that much. It was still in the box, so we threw it in the car along with some screwdrivers and all the other stuff and two travel mugs full of hot tea and we set off on our adventure.
We left a little later than planned and had to stop for ice on the way, so we didn’t get to the lake until 9:30. This meant breakfast would be quite late, since we hadn’t even assembled the grill yet. I had warned Jasper that it was a fairly involved process, because I remembered doing it last time. The instructions said it would take 20 minutes. With two of us working together, it took at least 45 minutes, but we were proud of ourselves when we were done.
By then we were both starving, but at least we had a grill now and could get a fire going. We had brought both “regular” and “instant start” charcoal. For times like this, I find the instant start charcoal to be a real time saver. . . except when it isn’t. Apparently this particular bag of charcoal didn’t get the memo about starting instantly. Match after match was sacrificed to the cause, to no avail. I ripped a page from the grill instruction booklet and we tried using that as kindling. That paper burned just fine but the coals didn’t catch. So then we tried dry grass with the same result. Then using more instruction book paper rolled up like cigars. Again, the paper burned merrily but the coals just lay there and laughed.
Finally, I sent Jasper in search of some small dry sticks. He found a very dry stick which we snapped into short sections and then lit with matches. (We used over half a box of matches.) The sticks did the trick at last. They burned for long enough to break down the coals’ resistance and we finally had an actual fire.
By now it was 11:00 and our “breakfast” had turned into “brunch!” In recent years, I have taken to using heavy-duty foil for most cooking chores on a grill rather than bringing a heavy frying pan that I would have to wash afterwards. So I made a foil “griddle” and fried some eggs and sausage patties on the grill. If I moved the foil a little to the side there was just enough room to toast a bagel for Jasper also.
It’s amazing how delicious food tastes when you have worked so hard to make it! After our brunch, we worked on math and Jasper got in a couple of quick walks. We also started listening to a new audiobook for literature. We also made a point of adding a few coals to the fire every half hour or so because we didn’t want it to go out!
For our late lunch, we had planned on bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches. This time we already had a nice hot bed of coals, so I made another foil pan for the bacon. It seemed like way too much bacon for two people, but Jasper felt it was barely enough. I blush to admit there was none left over . . .
So anyway, once the bacon was done I put it up on the warming rack and toasted our bread. (I can eat bread in the middle of the day as long as it’s gluten free.) Those BLTs tasted amazing! And after eating his sandwich, Jasper got to make some Jiffy Pop popcorn on the grill too. Marshmallows were also roasted over the glowing coals.
Jasper went on a walk to find shells and I watched from my refuge in the shade. He did go in swimming for a while and talked me into coming out to wade for a few minutes when the sun was a little lower.
Then we had to figure out how to douse the coals. Normally, we pour them out onto the ground and then pour a full bucket of water over them. Today, however, the grass had been recently mowed and there was lots of dry grass lying around. It would have been very easy to start a fire that we would not have been able to douse in time.
So instead, we poured the bucket of water directly into the grill and were treated to an impressive eruption of steam and ash. The grill had to be hosed clean when we got home! Oh, and after we got to the lake I saw I had a text from my husband telling me where the old grill was. When we got home, we checked—and it was right where he said it was!
Jasper’s souvenirs of the day.