Are From Venus, Men Love to Cook Out
by Mad Dog
Theres something about the summer months
that makes a mans fancy turn to searing flesh, especially on Sunday. God rests, men
|| Summer is upon us. You know summer, thats the time of the year when our
thoughts turn to lying on the beach, getting a tan, taking long walks in the late evening
sun, and pulling out the grill and charring anything that will sit still long enough to be
marinated, including beef, chicken, Uncle Al, the dog, and whoever it is at the radio
station who seems to think we want to hear that stupid sunscreen song every hour. As if
anyone with more than three brain cells even wanted to hear it a second time.
No matter what you call itcooking out, barbecuing, or grillingpeople are
deadly serious about it. Well, men are anyway, and the last time I checked there were
still one or two self-help books that consider men to be people. It could be the longer
light of the day, or it could be the angle of the sun, but theres something about
the summer months that makes a mans fancy turn to searing flesh, especially on
Sunday. God rests, men barbecue.
Its unclear exactly why this affects men more than
women. It could be a side effect of testosterone, the hormone that causes men to develop
secondary sex characteristics like facial hair, a deeper voice, the urge to arm wrestle
guys who outweigh them by 200 lbs., and an inability to ask for directions even after
theyve driven through four states looking for the convenience store thats
right down the block from the house.
Experts say Americans barbecued 2.7 billion times last year. Of course they also said they
knew where the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was.
|| It could also be the
result of atavistic behavior imprinted on strands of DNA that recalls mans
traditional role in the cave as the hunter, grilling mastodon ribs over an open fire while
the women gather berries and leaves (knowing theyll need something to eat since
dinner will be at least 2 hours later than planned), and the children run around whining,
"But we hate mastodon ribs. Cant we have macaroni and cheese?"
So you see, not a lot has changed over the past 2 million years. Except, of course, that
back then a guy like Bill Gates would have gotten his butt kicked all over the cave and
now he ends up owning all the caves.
In theory, grilling is a simple task. All you need is fuel,
something to light it, a way to hold the food over the fire, and a KFC nearby so when
dinner burns to a crisp everyone can still get their nourishment. But where Primitive Man
used open fires, and Recent Man used simple metal grills or hibachis, Modern Man needs a
$4,000 gas grill with six infrared burners, a rotisserie, a side-mounted range-top burner,
a propane powered microwave, and a cordless telephone with the fire departments
phone number preprogrammed in memory.
Youd better quit laughing, one of these might be in your
future. Experts say Americans barbecued 2.7 billion times last year. Of course they also
said they knew where the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was. When something is this popular,
people are always going to want the latest, greatest, and best. Remember a few years ago
when plain old charcoal briquettes werent good enough? First they made them so
theyd light without starter fluid, which is no fun since that way the flames
dont singe the bottom of the roof overhang. Then they started flavoring them. The
next thing you know there will be charcoal briquettes in an array of fabulous designer
These mortgageable grills come in stainless steel, have designer paint jobs, feature side
and bottom shelves, and have more features than the average kitchen range. And yes, they
still do basically the same thing a pile of sticks will do.
|| The biggest trend,
though, was wood smoking. In a fit of mass hysteria not seen since people started
mistaking Beanie Babies for a retirement fund, pyromaniacal adults started throwing wood
chips on their fires to give dinner that special, smoky, burning-down-the-house taste.
Hickory, mesquite, and applewood came and went. Backyards became hazier than Mexico City,
which is saying a lot since breathing the air there for a day is supposedly equivalent to
smoking three packs of unfiltered cigarettes.
Once we went through all the flammable hardwoods indigenous to
North America short of salt-treated lumber and telephone poles, there was nowhere to go in
the world of barbecues than to make the equipment bigger. This is whats known as
"a man thing." Where a few years ago the average grill cost between $100 and
$300, now the price has jumped as high as $4,000. These mortgageable grills come in
stainless steel, have designer paint jobs, feature side and bottom shelves, and have more
features than the average kitchen range. And yes, they still do basically the same thing a
pile of sticks will do.
The question is: Does a $4,000 deluxe grill
cook food any better than the $10 Hibachi you get at the drug store or the $30 kettle
grill thats half-rusted on the back porch? I have no doubt your Smores will be
smore melted, your toasted marshmallows crispier on the outside and gooier on the
inside, and your hot dogs even more blistered and burned beyond recognition. But no matter
what you cook the food on, some things will always stay the same. For one, youll
still be able to spot the man of the house. Hell be the one wearing the apron that
says: "My grill can kick your grills pork butt."
©1999 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read
them while waiting for the coals to heat up.