Granddad Tom’s Smoker

This is from “Notes To My Kids: Little Stories About My Grown Up Kids”. A meat smoker a family holiday tradition? And other times too? Yes indeed. No roasted turkey at Thanksgiving for us, it was smoked! And the memories of that still taste good.

To Roger and Jane:

As you know, I like to smoke meat on my little Brinkman smoker in my back yard. While it is not large or fancy, the Brinkman does the trick because it can easily handle both a turkey and a ham at the same time. A lot of people spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on smokers and grills; but at $80 to $100 each, the Brinkman is a good value. Using a smoker is not something I saw on TV and thought, Hey, I gotta get one of those. Instead, it’s something I started doing because my dad used one. Granddad Tom loved using smokers, so do I.

When I was a kid when we lived in Ranch Estates at MeeMaw and Granddad’s first house, there was a large, brick grill by the patio. I remember Granddad cooking burgers and his always beloved steaks on it while drinking a cold Schlitz beer. After a few years, it was torn down for some reason—we’ll have to ask MeeMaw about that. A smoker arrived on the scene to replace it—a “Mr. Smoker” brand to be exact. Granddad had that thing for many years and used it frequently for smoking things like turkeys and hams and grilling the ever- present steaks he enjoyed so much. Being from a poor family, steak was a luxury to him, and we seemed to have steak once a week.

Mr. Smoker came with a short instruction booklet, which explained how to smoke many types of things. I have the now worn pamphlet and still use it to see how to cook types of meat—an antique that I still have in my recipe file by the white microwave. You can tell its age by looking at the man on its front cover wearing 1960’s “golf schlock” attire.
One thing to remember, in the 1960s, smoking meat was not as widespread. Why? I am not sure; but it sure caught on, and most members of our family still do it. It has become an unspoken tradition for us and smoked turkeys and hams have adorned most every Thanksgiving and Christmas for decades. Many memories were created around the curves of the smokers that have been part of our households. While not cherished, they are still almost loved because they really were where most of our holiday family meal fare came from.

The act of using a smoker was part of the holiday activities. When I was older, I remember many dark, cold nights, standing by the smoker with my dad. The smoke would wrap around us if the wind blew right, while we sipped some Jack Daniels and water and talked about just about anything, including you kids and your cousins.

To me, that, is the real story about Granddad’s smokers. The food was always good, well, usually good since there were some disasters (like when the fire went out). But the memories of standing there with your granddad are what now taste the best, in a sense. The memories of him, the smokers, and their tasty fare are what loom large. It teaches us all that doing something simply, slowly and quietly with your kids and family can be much larger than it appears. Hence, remember that in the years to come with your own families, and light a fire around a smoker to see what pleasing things come out of it that you and yours will always treasure. May your turkeys and hams always turn out like you hope, taste as good as you desire, and fill your family with love.

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