The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Steady, men... steady!

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.

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.
"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.

I do.

… and thank God I was here for that, too.

… so there.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

What fun, Tony. I wish I could write laugh-out-loud stuff like this. Colin is our BBQ Engineer and I have no desire to change that situation. I'm sure I would set the neighbourhood on fire. Besides, once he opened the lid and a rat was in there. No thanks. I'm happy for him to be the hero.

Thu Jun 28, 01:09:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

This is great, Tony! I have to admit that when the softball team came over last week and my husband got called away to an evening meeting, I panicked since I've never actually turned on the BBQ! I ended up having to swallow my pride and ask one of the player's fathers to take over.

Thu Jun 28, 12:41:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony! I may have to send my son to you for a summer inservice deal. I run a tongless house, and how is he supposed to learn these critical boy skills? (thanks for the lemon-lime tip) I've got the boy out whittling a stick with his pocketknife so he can wrestle a hot dog over a campfire, but that may be the limit of my knowledge in this area. Are there camps? Could you write an instruction book for single moms of teenaged boys? Oh, wait... Wait. This is one of those inborn deals, isn't it? I should just get him a barbeque grill for his birthday, butcher a cow, and then go back in the house. Your friend, Sarah Black (and James)

Thu Jun 28, 07:24:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Sarah! If you got a pair of boots, give the boy a swift kick in the ass! Works wonders. Tell him I said so. Glad yous enjoyed this, Tricia and Jen. And thank you Bill Brownstein, who replied with a "Go for it!" when I asked if I could mess with his fine column.

Thu Jun 28, 10:11:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Antonios, I wept copious tears as I read this story on 'barbecue.'

Diane Smith

Fri Jun 29, 09:21:00 am GMT-4  
Anonymous Kelly Spitzer said...

Ha! This is so freaking hilarious! It's true, that's how BBQ works in our house, but that's okay, because I love BBQ, and I can never, ever get the damn grill lit. So fine. Men, I bow down to you.

Fri Jun 29, 04:15:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Great stuff, Tony. I'll be BBQ'ing today, but it's just womens manning the BBQ (after shopping for the grub). I'm sure we (erm, my mom...she the man) will manage, but that lemon-lime trick will get 'oohs' for sure. Happy Canada Day!

Sat Jun 30, 12:04:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Thanks for reading, Diane, Kelly, and Tamara. Here's another tip... dip the tip of a souvlaki stick in vegetable oil and keep it by the BBQ. It'll hold a flame longer wit da hoil. I'd make a lousy magician, eh?

Sat Jun 30, 10:26:00 pm GMT-4  

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