My husband’s high stakes political bet pays off in perfectly grilled steaks

At a time when our political landscape is so polarized, a little levity…

Ben Eisendrath, Charles’ son, fires up a Grillery on the lawn outside the Eisendraths’ home in northwest Michigan. (Click the image to read a story in “Second Wave” magazine about the creation of the Grillery.)

Last summer we joined friends Charles and Julia Eisendrath for a cookout at their home in northern Michigan’s East Jordan. Their cookouts are a special treat because years ago Charles designed a remarkable wood burning grill. Frustrated with grills then on the market, he came up with a better mousetrap. He took his idea to a welder and had it built. He showed his new grill to a friend, who asked, “Can I buy one?” As did another and another.

Charles obliged. But The Grillery, as he called it, was a sideline. Charles was a journalist who held posts with publications like TIME. He also wrote for The New York Times.

After, he became a professor at the University of Michigan. For years, he ran an internationally known UofM program for journalists called The Knight-Wallace Fellows, funded in part and named for famed colleague Mike Wallace, Charles’ pal. Journalists who’d long pursued a special interest could take a fully funded year off and study something else. Charles took these smart young pros to meet journalists around the world, including in Russia and South America. He spent most of his time running the program.

Charles’ son Ben took over The Grillery and brought it to a new level. Stainless steel Argentinian-style grills made in northern Michigan can sell for thousands of dollars. Their cooking surface can be raised or lowered while hot and also catches juices.

Grillery grills were endorsed by James Beard and are used in famous restaurants like Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY. The largest grill yet (14’ across) is being installed at the soon to open Prime and Proper steak house in downtown Detroit. Grills are found on Jet Set yachts and in homes owned by luminaries like Tom Brokaw and Christiane Amanpour (who called herself “the culinary envy of our neighborhood.”)

But this column’s about politics.

That night last summer at the Eisendraths’, the subject of the then upcoming Presidential election arose. Charles voiced a widely held assumption: Hillary was a shoe in.

My husband shook his head. “I’m willing to bet Trump will win.” (Me, to self: What is he thinking??? This could cost big bucks.) My stomach clenched.

Burton said, “If Trump loses, I’ll take you fly fishing anywhere in the world.” (Burton and Charles are both outdoorsmen.) My stomach: full lockdown.

Charles, generally not a gambler, could already taste the brown trout he’d catch. “You’re on,” he said. In the unlikely event that he lost, he’d pay Burton off with a Grillery grill.

(Kate Marshall Rashid, also at dinner, wanted in. Her stake: delectables from American Spoon Products in NoMi. Kate and husband Justin Rashid started the company in 1982 and remain active. I featured Justin in a newspaper article in the ’80s.)

Later Burton confessed to me about the bet, “As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wanted to take them back. But a deal’s a deal.”

A few days before the election, Burton called Charles and offered to cancel the wager. “No way,” Charles replied. “I’m tying flies for Chile.”

My husband fires up the Grillery for our post-election dinner.

The night of the election, Burton called again. Same offer. “No way,” Charles said. “I’m packing my bags for Chile.”

After the election, Burton called once more. “How do you like your steaks?”

“I’m not eating grilled steak,” Charles replied. “I’m eating grilled crow.”

A shiny new stainless steel grill awaited us in the pole barn of our northern Michigan farm when we arrived over Memorial Day weekend. Charles and Julia were our first guests to enjoy it. Along with prime tenderloin steaks from Burritt’s in Traverse City, we also grilled a crow. (Actually a pheasant. Charles “ate” it with good humor.)

The wood-fired steaks were delicious. We’ve been savoring the jams and salsas sent by the Rashids.

Thanks, pals, for living up to your word. And tempting our tastebuds.

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