Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gentlemen, start your grills!

Outdoor grilling is an American institution. Utah's no exception. It's a rare summer weekend that you don't find grill smoke wafting up from half the backyards in the neighborhood.

Ahhhh, the smell of charcoal and grilled meat. The true sign that summer has arrived.

It's interesting to me that the outdoor grilling is associated with men, more than women. It's almost like our wives and mothers have said, “The kitchen is mine so, if you want to cook, you'll have to go outside.” It reminds me of when I was a kid. “John, stop watching TV and go outside.” It seems like the women in our lives can't stand to have us in the house. Maybe they think we'll set the kitchen on fire.

The irony is that professional cooking is dominated by men. I take that to mean that as long as we're make money, it's okay for us to be in the kitchen.

I'm not going any farther with that. My wife has a wicked backhand.

Grilling may appeal to men because of the association with the primitive. There's just something about playing with fire and eating meat that makes us happy.

Grilling let's us be competitive, too. Don't kid yourself. The title of “Best Grill Master on the Block” may not come with an awards ceremony but, we all compete for it. The reason we don't talk about it openly is because we're all afraid we aren't the grill masters we pretend we are.

Ladies? If you want to emotionally devastate your man, just tell him the neighbor grills better steaks than he does. Please don't do it. Just smile and nod while you're trying to choke down that latest burnt offering. He may not thank you openly but, it's better than the alternative.

The other aspect of grill competition is the fight over “charcoal vs. gas.” Charcoal seems to offer more control over at least one thing. You can keep one side of the grill hotter than the other. It also seems to be easier with a charcoal fire to add hickory chips or some other wood to give the food great smoky flavor.

Then again, lighting the coals, waiting for them to get to the right temperature, and then cleaning up later, seems like a lot more time and work. Gas grills make all that easier. Just plug in the hose and fire it up. I suspect that it doesn't pollute the atmosphere as much, either. I'm not 100% sure about that one, though.

The charcoal side thinks the gas side is a bunch of pansies who haven't mastered fire. The gas guys don't do “real” grilling, they say. On the other hand, the gas side thinks the charcoal side is a bunch of filthy Neanderthals who can't seem to embrace new, cleaner, technology. I think they're both right.

Be that as it may, I currently favor gas. My wife threw out our old portable gas grill (why? WHY?) so I'm going to have to get a new one in the next day or two. I don't know. Maybe I'll try charcoal and learn to embrace my inner Neanderthal, instead.

I once made the mistake of talking to my wife about the whole Neanderthal charcoal vs. modern gas thing. She told me not to worry about it. I was a gassy Neanderthal. I don't think she's talking about the grill. Maybe that's the real reason women send us outside.


tkangaroo said...

Slate took on your debate environmentally recently. Enjoy:

mark dutch oven said...

It's funny. When I grill, I use gas. I have a nice three-burner grill, and I love it.

When I dutch oven, I use coals.

It is possible to use gas to heat up a dutch oven, but for some reason, I look at that as cheating. I can't explain why. It just is. Like Mount Everest is.

And when my wife suggests that I use the dutch ovens in our regular oven, that is the deepest of blasphemies!

Well, not really, but I don't do it anyway.

I guess I use the coals because to me that's a part of the game, part of the challenge. If I were to put one of my dutch ovens in my home oven, I might as well just use any other pot.