Orchard Park, NY— Master craftsmen Geoffrey Pierce knew from the moment his mom’s brother, Uncle Paul, showed up to his Labor Day family barbecue in an ill fitting “One Foot Cock,” t-shirt, thirsty for a bourbon, there was going to be trouble. First, he ‘whoo hooed’ Pierce’s teenage age daughter and her friends when they got into their bathing suits to go for a swim. To one of the friends, who may have been carrying an extra pound or two he said, “Don’t be afraid to do some laps, honey.” Next, when “Sweet Home Alabama,” popped up for some reason on the ‘Like James Taylor,’ Spotify playlist he got up and provided full throated vocal accompaniment while playing a not so wicked air guitar. Stumbling during the pretend solo, he knocked a platter of jumbo shrimp from a table providing an exotic dinner for the family dog, Wendell.
But, Uncle Paul’s real transgression turned out to be his assault on the barbecue itself. Over the years Pierce had developed a scientific approach to grilling, which he takes very seriously. He would start by taking the chicken and steak from the fridge, letting it come to room temperature. He would follow that up by warming up sections of his copious Weber gas grill, part for searing, part for roasting. Seasonings, which included sea salt and crunchy cracked pepper were meticulously arranged. He would test the heat using the 2×2 method, when you could hold your hand two inches above the heat, for only two seconds—it was time to grill.
On several occasions, while Pierce checked time on his iPhone and discussed the precision needed to sear and then slow roast a steak with his brothers as they sipped IPA’s, Uncle Paul would trip over to the grilling area and tell them, “Them’s some real sissy beers you guys are drinking,” and then he would lift the grill cover and say, “How’s the roast beast coming?” disrupting the whole precision timing process,thus wecking a couple hundred dollars worth of steaks.
It was of little consolation when leaving Uncle Paul said, “Thanks for having me, real nice party and the grub was good too.” Of course, a few steps down the driveway he added, “Like an old shoe.”
Talking to no one Pierce returned to the yard, poured himself a big bourbon (neat) took a seat on the deck, looked up at the dusky sky and thought about killing Uncle Paul with an ice pick.