By Antonios Maltezos
In The Montreal Gazette of Wednesday, June 27, 2007, columnist Bill Brownstein conceded too much, too easily, I think. Immediately following the section of his column I’ve excerpted here, I will attempt to put things right.GUYS, WE MIGHT NOT BE AS USEFUL AS WE THINK
BILL BROWNSTEIN, The Gazette
Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I used to take pride in barbecuing. Then a friend - a woman - passed on this reality check:
"When a man volunteers to barbecue, the following chain of events are put into motion: 1) The woman buys the food. 2) The woman makes the salad, prepares the vegetables and makes dessert. 3) The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces, and takes it to the man lounging beside the grill - beer in hand.
"Here comes the important part: 4) THE MAN PLACES THE MEAT ON THE GRILL.
"5) The woman goes inside to organize plates and cutlery. 6) The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is burning. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he deals with the situation.
"Real important part again: 7) THE MAN TAKES THE MEAT OFF THE GRILL AND HANDS IT TO THE WOMAN.
"8) The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces, and brings them to the table. 9) After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes (not trusting the male to load the dishwasher).
"And most important of all: 10) Everyone PRAISES the MAN and THANKS HIM for his cooking efforts. 11) The man asks the woman how she enjoyed her night off. Upon seeing her reaction, he concludes there's just no pleasing some women."
Now here’s what I have to say in defense of men who barbecue (the ouch was his, btw):
Bill… Bill… Bill…
First of all, I’m hardly lounging by the grill as I await the arrival of the meat, which I’ve personally rubbed with the steak spice, btw. She only needs bring me the pan when I call for it. I’m ready forda meat!
After glug-glugging beer one and two (it’s my shot of cowboy whiskey), every fiber of every muscle of my being tenses, on stand-by, ready to pull back my tong hand with a snap, quick as a gunslinger (except backwards) should the flames shoot up through the grill like a solar flare, which I’ve heard said can reach great heights, singing the nose hairs even. I’ve already got the safe spot picked out, the corner of the cedar side shelf cool enough not to warm my beer should I have to set the bottle down and wrestle the flames into submission, squirt my secret flame suppressing squirting liquid onto the briquettes, a faux lemon/lime juice I get from the Club Price by the case. It comes in green squeeze bottles, and sure beats water, which will send up heavy smoke signals every time, bringing out the neighbors, that sonofabitch with his advice. You know, if you hang that from a string, it’ll be much easier to spray paint.
I keep the lemon/lime juice at my feet, my secret.
I can’t say it enough, guys: it’s so important to have that safe spot picked out. The beer needs to stay cold. It’s a question of survival, medium rare, or well-done. Should I scorch my hand, I need to be quick passing the tongs to the chilled hand, the one that’s been clutching the crisp La Bud, and flip the meat before it burns. But I can’t do that unless I’ve set the beer down quickly. See? And once the beer is safe, I can start licking the knuckles of my singed flipping hand. None of this would be possible without beer one and two, btw, because that’s when I’m memorizing the motion of setting the beer down on that cold spot. I don’t need to be thinking about these things during an emergency.
So we’ve established that the beer is essential to good barbecuing. Now what about who gets to cook the meat? The man or the woman? Well, s’cuse me for being so ignorant, but I didn’t know women had the skill, or the strength, to hang a pair of extra long tongs from the pinky finger while holding a pan laden with raw meat, keeping it level while emptying beer three down the gullet… beer one and beer two were so good and essential.
Here’s another thing I can’t say enough times: don’t ever, but never, ever have the wife bring you the beer. Let her count how many times you slammed the screen door shut in your hurry to get back to the grill. Why make it easy for her, Bill?
Now, ask any chef of merit: the meat needs be seared to lock in all those juices, those flavorful drippings the untrained barbequer, or a woman, might let drain onto the briquettes, hardly any sizzling because of feeble temperatures. The grills got to be white hot, man, dangerously hot. I ask you Bill: HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A WOMAN MOVING LIKE A STUNTMAN, A JACKIE CHAN HOPPING BACKWARDS ON ONE LEG, AND THEN THE SPIN AROUND… THE DUCK DOWN, TONGS POINTED LIKE A WEAPON AT THE FLAMES? I’ve had to do that, during a fire ball, all the while keeping my one loose eye on that La Bud I’d rested on the cedar side shelf just in time, whose cries for help I swear I could hear through the roaring and the fuss like a ping, ping in my ears. ‘Course you’ve never seen a woman with these moves, Bill. This is hero’s work.
Making the salad… arranging the cutlery… phffft! I’d rather kill the beast than shop for the shallots and the che-merry
tomatoes. And what of the propane tank? Who’ll protect the wife and the kids from that bomb?
Me! That’s who.
Get the kids in the house, I’m about to light the BBQ!
Is the barbecue safe like that? I think it’s still on?
The vinyl cover a wrinkled heap on the deck, bed sheets kicked off onto the floor, the lid wide open like the maw of some devilish creature, or the yawn of a man who’s eaten too much, needs the couch for the next hour or so. He don’t feel so good. I can see it. I’m picturing it.
It’s taken care of, I say, sneaking off the couch. Outside, I singe my eyelashes when I lean over the grill to see if it’s still burning. I can’t open my eyes all the way anymore.
Ouch, indeed. This is such dangerous business.
I still have to screw the valve shut, turning in the direction the arrow indicates.
… and thank God I was here for that, too.
… so there.