25 things vanishing in America, part 2: Charcoal


Amid ever-increasing evidence of the cancer risk involved with grilling and the slow expansion of laws regulating the use of outdoor cookers, it seems like charcoal is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. However, before we bid farewell to one of America's signature culinary experiences, it might be worthwhile to pause, take a deep breath, and consider if the quest for eternal life is worth the loss of summer pleasure.

When I was a kid, the switch from charcoal to gas was a momentous event, and a matter of no small debate in my family. For my sisters and I, there was little question that the move was a good idea. In addition to the ease of setup and the simplicity of cleaning, there was the simple fact that my father approached grilling with a mindset that hearkened back to his Navy days. He would begin by soaking the briquettes with lighter fluid until they assumed a waxy, oily appearance, after which he would throw a match.