PEOPLE WHO DON'T live in California think that people who do spend their entire lives out of doors. They imagine us sitting around the pool in the middle of winter, sipping tall drinks and listening to steaks sizzle on the barbecue.
We know better, of course. We know that in cold weather the pool becomes nothing but an attractive nuisance. And although California cooking may depend on the grill, the grill often moves indoors.
Winter grilling used to be confined to the kitchen. Not any more. These days, thanks to a wonderful new contraption, the hottest place to cook is right in the fireplace.
It was Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse, who made grilling a national pastime. Now she is trying to get us all out of the kitchen and into the living room for a big barbecue.
It was on a trip to Italy that Waters found an intriguing grill on an estate in Chianti. Waters had never seen anything quite like it, so she had it copied and is now importing the grill into the United States.
Made of wrought iron, the grill is free-standing; you can move it outdoors in the summer months. It adjusts to three levels, so you can use any type of fuel from coals to logs. It supports up to 160 pounds, in case you ever consider grilling a couple of small pigs.
So even though the weather may be terrible, you don't have to wait for summer to hold your next big barbecue. Throw another log on the fire, get out the grill and do some real California cooking.
Alice Waters' Grill, $79, available only from Cafe Fanny Imports, 1619 5th St., Berkeley 94710. To order, telephone Loretta Koll at (415) 526-7664.