Let's face it guys, man has been playing with fire for over twenty thousand years. We like the power of fire. We like the potential that a fire represents; it can protect us from outside intruders while we're huddled in our caves; warm us on those harsh, sub-zero, blizzard nights; light our way through treacherous caverns; feed us the warm protein of cooked meat we need, when we're sick of eating tubers … and we like that it can destroy almost anything in its path! It's a ready made disaster, waiting for us to tame it.
Men like to destroy stuff, blow stuff up, figure out how stuff works … and if we're lucky, swear a lot and get really dirty in the process. Don't fight it or deny it … it's in the genetic code. So … knowing that about you, me and guys in general, it's only natural that we're attracted to something as mystifying and hypnotic as the barbecue grill. But, what else does it represent, and why is strictly a man's domain?
It doesn't matter to me what you cook, what you cook it on or how many you want to cook for. You can call it a job, a chore, a challenge, an art, or a learned skill, but what you'll find is, however you view it now, once you get good at it, you can liken it to dating, marriage , parenthood and even sex, if you'd like and get a whole lot more satisfaction out of it!
Now, I'm not talking about lavishing new tools and diamond studded accessories on your grill, or getting crazy with sauces and trying to do bananas flambé on your grill … though that sounds like a cool challenge … I'm talking about your attitude toward grilling. Something about providing for another, preparing, caring, tending and nurturing, whether it's another person or a good meal, strikes a visceral chord in us, akin to our flight or fight response.
Pride in man is overwhelming, because we want to be appreciated for what we do, what we can accomplish and what obstacles we can overcome. If you don't think that's a strong inner sense, let me know how you feel when you burn the dinner! Abject defeat, rejection and self loathing? Pretty close, huh? That's why you take her out to eat when you're dating. If the meal's bad, it's not your fault.
Let me tell you how to take your barbecue experience one giant step in the right direction that will make a lasting impression. Don't just be A Man and do what's expected of you, be the Man and do as much of the whole dinner as you can, yourself. There's nothing worse than going to a barbecue and watching some poor guy's wife slave over every detail, just to hear him get the credit for starting a fire and managing not to burn the meat beyond recognition.
If you're going to host a barbecue the right way, then you need to know:
How many people are coming? How much each person will reasonably eat? What's the best fare you can provide on your budget? Does anyone has any allergies or meat issues? What cut or types of meat you will provide? How should you prepare and season those meats? How long before cooking time should that be done? How long will each type of meat take to cook? How much room will that take up on your grill? What needs direct heat versus indirect heat? What sides you can grill at the same time? How you can get everything to hit the table at the same time?
(My personal opinion is that, the inability to figure out the answers to these questions, not taking the time and energy to learn things which, to us grill masters, is second nature, is part of the reason that most people don't host parties, of any kind any more. I can't tell you how many people I've invited for dinner parties and barbecues where the invitation isn't reciprocated in some way. Could be my company, I suppose, but they keep coming back ! Maybe my barbecue tastes so good, they'll put up with my company! Maybe they don't reciprocate because they feel they can't measure up. Or maybe, just maybe, they haven't figured out the answers to the questions I laid out, basic to any kind of entertaining and don't know how to do it!)
Once you have a grasp of these barbecue entertaining and hosting basics, you can figure out the best places to buy your meats, seasonings, rubs, seafood and produce to get the best quality for the best price and start worrying about what people will want to drink, have for appetizers and what you can listen to while entertaining … and no, that does not mean keeping the game on in the background and eating on the couch … unless it's a tailgate party, of course! (Part of your new education may involve listening to music that was not necessarily popular when you graduated High School!)
Now, when you've got all that figured out, when your wife, or special someone, asks you what you need them to do, you can go pour them a glass of that whatever-they-like and tell them to put the music on, put their feet up and relax for a while. You've got it all under control … because now, you're The Man. Doesn't that feel good …?
In my house, we believe in sitting at a table for a meal (unless there are too many of us, which'll happen at a barbecue) and having a conversation, and we have trained our kids to do the same. We seem to have trained a lot of their friends, too, by the way they still like to come around at dinner time! As for background noise, that's what a stereo is for … not a television.
Need some other benefits to being The Man? I've never figured out the fight over division of labor in the house between a man and a woman. There is no way possible that it can ever come out fifty-fifty, and I don't care how you break it out! Mowing the lawn equals doing laundry equals doing dishes equals taking out the trash equals making the bed equals grocery shopping equals … and on and on! As long as you're participating and complaining about it, and as along as you feel appreciated for doing it, life is good.
One of the rules in my house is "if you cook, you don't have to clean up." I'll cook before I clean, any day of the week! I take the time to shop for what I want to cook, about an hour before I want to cook it (yeah, takes about fifteen minutes …). I hate trying to remember to take stuff out of the freezer. What I know is, if I barbecue, not only is it going to taste great, I'm going get the ephedrine high of being the appreciated provider, my lovely did not have to stress out after her tech job, we get quality time With the kids, and there are hardly any pots and pans, so even the kids can do the dishes without complaining … much!
Don't panic … I know it seems like a lot to learn and do, plus having a personality transplant and all, but believe me, once you've got this stuff down, there isn't anything you can't handle on the grill. Plus, it's a great reason not to let her wrestle the tongs out of your hands! That's like attacking your manhood!
Oh yeah, one more thing … some people take the "dating your grill" thing a little too seriously and think that no man should ever let another man cook on his grill, like it's adulterous or something. Let me tell you: I've got family and friends, all over the country, and because people know I love to barbecue, especially for large groups, and they know I'm good at it, they want me to take care of it for them. I personally grill with charcoal, but that doesn't mean I can't work with propane. Variety is the spice of life!
I'm proud of my grill master status and it's a sign of acknowledgment when other people, even other grill master friends, ask me to wield the tongs for them and their group of friends. Feed them right and you'll have them eating out the palm of your hand … gladly!