“It’s like a family reunion, but without the drama….”
They gathered in the sunshine on the first weekend of October, near Augusta, GA. Already virtual friends – many had shared outdoor cooking tips and tricks for more than 7 years; some had been part of this circle for just a few months – they came together at a camp ground on the shores of a lake. Those gathered had initially crossed paths in the Char-Broil LIVE Community Forums because of a shared appreciation for cooking outdoors and over time had become good friends. And, like good friends everywhere, they also shared the trials and tribulations of everyday living as well as the monumental life-changing events each had encountered: consoling one another at the loss of family, homes, pets and jobs; celebrating births, marriages and new found employment. Having shared many posts with photos and descriptions of meals prepared for their family and friends now they were cooking for one another. Sure, they were looking for bragging rights, but mostly they just wanted to share a meal with friends.
Over the years most had exchanged personal emails away from the forum – at first these were about food but with each exchange they began to know one another. Several had had phone conversations and a very few met in person when a business or pleasure trip made it possible. But most had only seen faces or avatars on the Forum profiles as they joined in friendly conversations a couple times a day; sharing recipes, tips, tricks, ideas and photos of meals cooked outdoors on their grills and smokers. This “Fall Gathering” was a chance to satisfy curiosity as to what those other members were really like.
No one can remember who first suggested it…most likely it was Tommy (or TMB as members know him) essentially the very first member of the Forum who has become the unofficial “Big Easy specialist and guest chef.” Regardless of the origination of the idea, it was Georgia Gentleman Dee Stafford who took up the flag of leadership and organized a location with suitable facilities. So on this pleasant autumnal weekend at a camp ground on a lake in Georgia, they came to cook with and for on another. There was some great food, to be sure… but mostly it was about fellowship. One member declared: “It’s like a family reunion, but without the drama.”
The kitchen prep area was full from morning until well after dark. An assortment of cookers were fired up Friday afternoon and pretty much were cooking non-stop until Sunday night. We ate beef roasts, steaks and ribs; whole smoked chicken, bacon-wrapped chicken legs and hot wings. There were sausages and burgers, jalapeno poppers and ice cream cakes. And there was pork. Lotsa pork. Heritage Duroc pork shoulders, loins, tenderloins, shanks and ribs all donated by Compart Family Farms.
Saturday night was time for a fire circle, befitting since it was the appreciation for cooking with fire that brought them together. Stories were swapped, jokes and gentle ribbing occurred and there was the comfortable quiet that arrives when you are in the presence of friends and nothing need be said.
The good folks from Char-Broil drove up from Columbus in waves each day and shared their own recipes on the newest Char-Broil TRU-Infrared grills like the Patio Bistro and Big Easy 2-IN-1 Electric Smoker Roaster. One product manager provided sneak peaks at some new accessories like the Big Easy Vertical Kabob Stand (Duh’oh – Why didn’t I think of that!) and a grill top pizza round made of wood!
Oh – they let me come too…but I was busy eating most of the time. The food prepared by everyone was so darn good it was beyond DEE-LISH-US! because it was cooked and shared with love. And that, my friends, is the key ingredient for every successful cookout.
There are more photos and conversation about the Fall Gathering 2011 as well as plans being discussed for the Fall Gathering 2012. Join in the conversation and make your own self welcome at the gathering, virtual on actual. Check out the planning conversation here.
I want to recognize Terry & Kerry who made the trip from the Gulf Coast of Alabama – bringing aged pecan wood, local sausage and plenty of gulf shrimp! I’ve featured Terry’s recipes and tips in the Sizzle on the Grill newsletter over the years…and we’ve exchanged emails and phone calls many times. This was our first face-to-face meeting and I gotta tell you it was like reuniting with a long-lost brother and very emotional for me. But — saying good-bye after such a wonderful gathering of good friends was more emotional. I’ve spoken with these and hundreds of other members of the forum each week for more than 7 years and being part of the Community Forums feels like family. But without the drama!
Here are 3 videos of the Fall Gathering you may enjoy. This first video was shot and produced by the talented creative director at Char-Broil, Michael (also a regular member of the Forums.)
Char-Broil Video: Fall Gathering 2012
These two videos were shot and posted by Don… aka IR2dum