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The grilling season

05/23/2011 @ 1:18pm

Spring has finally sprung! The wild plums and lilacs are foaming with a celebration of blossoms; the air is heavy with their heavenly perfume.      

This type of weather makes up for our eighteen months of winter. If conditions were like this all the time, more people would want to live here, which would make this part of the world a bit less special and we probably wouldn’t care to live here anymore.

I pity those who inhabit areas where the climate is perpetually paradisiacal. They almost certainly lack an appreciation for how good they have it. There’s no icky to contrast with the wonderful, no dark to make one grateful for the light, no infinite sea of snowdrifts to make one feel like kissing the lawn when it finally greens up.

The return of balmy weather heralds the return of outdoor cooking.

Outdoor cooking is mainly the bailiwick of us guys. I don’t say this just  because there’s tons of evidence to back up that belief, but mainly because I like to use the word “bailiwick.”  

I think that men have largely taken charge of outdoor cooking due to the fact that it involves one very primal ingredient: fire. There’s nothing like an opportunity to fiddle with flames to get a guy’s juices going!

As with most master chefs, I have some trade secrets, the main one being that I always include our dog when cooking outdoors.

Whenever I grill, I make sure that our Golden Retriever is close at hand. He’ll sit at my feet with a hopeful grin, convinced that dogged persistence will win the day, his face the epitome of slobbery expectation. He reminds me of me when I was a bachelor.     

When -- not “if” -- some sort of grilling mishap happens, I’ll “accidentally” drop the inedible item and it will disappear before gravity can bring it to the earth. The dog never questions his good fortune, and what happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen.   

One of the main reasons men like being grill masters is that every boy has gone through a phase when he was fascinated with fire. Most boys grow out of this and become normal adults. A very few might become pyromaniacs, but those who are really obsessed with fire turn into hot sauce addicts. They can be seen laying in the gutter, swilling Tabasco straight from the bottle.

As on many farms when I was a kid, ours had a burn barrel where household rubbish was incinerated. Tending the burn barrel was a stinky job that involved supervising a greasy, lazy fire. I loved it.

The burn barrel was a good place to learn about liquid accelerants from the petrochemical family. One quickly discovered how much was enough and what amount would produce a fireball that removed eyebrows and left you with a truly awful haircut.

It was during one of those burn barrel sessions that I first attempted outdoor cooking. Motivated by boredom and hunger, I stuck a wiener onto a stick and began to roast it over the burn barrel. I misjudged things and the wiener was soon ablaze.

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