We have a pretty tame, run-of-the-mill gas grill.
It is black, has the requisite propane tank underneath, little wheels on the bottom, a tray to the side that sports an additional burner and a big metal top that, when opened, reveals stairstep wire racks.
However, when men are hovering around it wielding black wire brushes, tongs, platters of raw meat and honey hickory barbecue sauce, the grill grows hair and becomes a wild-eyed, heaving, flaming beast.
I have never quite understood the male grilling ritual.
Since my son has come in for an extended visit, the testosterone quotient on our back deck has risen exponentially. Over Memorial Day, I was forced to come to grips with the hold a grill has on a man’s heart.
When I was growing up, I did not have a dad who grilled. He basically waited on mom to cook stuff, and after we shoveled back the fruits of her labor, my brother and I dutifully washed the dishes as dad burped his way back to his recliner.
We didn’t camp out, either. The families that camped out got a good dose of cooking over an open fire and thus were more likely candidates for a grill, I suppose.
All to say, my personal grill exposure has been limited.
My husband, on the other hand, enjoys grilling and fires it up at every opportunity. When he announces an intention to grill something, I anticipate an easier supper preparation evening, as he is taking responsibility for the main course.
My personal pre-grilling tasks include trimming and seasoning the meat, putting it on a platter, finding the tongs and a lighter and pushing all this stuff into his extended hands.
Then, I prepare side dishes, set the table, clean up the mess made by preparing the meat for the grill and flutter about the deck gushing appropriate feminine appreciation for his masculine grilling tendencies. (This appears to be required behavior for wives of grilling husbands.)
Wait. Maybe I actually work HARDER when he grills. I will give this some thought.
When my husband grills, he seems to be inspired to higher levels if I am an appreciative observer.
Some grill-appropriate female commentary might include: “Wow, honey, I have never seen the flames jump that high!” or “The way you hold those tongs…well, it’s just exciting to watch!” or “How do you know when to turn the steaks? There is such an art to that, isn’t there?”
These kinds of remarks should be accompanied by fluttering eyelashes, hands on hips and wide-eyed, slack-jawed awe. This is guaranteed to yield major masculine explanations about meat-turning and flame-adjusting and cooking times.
Memorial Day is apparently the Holy Grail of grilling for most men.
I did not know this until I witnessed it first-hand over the weekend, when my son suggested to my husband we buy some ribs to grill. My husband’s reaction reflected a quick series of facial expressions, eventually culminating in what could be loosely described as “salivating werewolf.”
My son glared at me as if to say “Is this guy suffering from grillorexia? Don’t you give him enough grill time?”
I felt the masculine momentum build as they quickly decided on potato salad and canned, barbequed beans as side dishes, both shooting sideways glances at me. It was grill-lust at its peak, and I knew better than to interfere.
I kept my mouth shut.
My opinion, by now, did not matter, anyway. It was two against one. My usual admonitions to eat healthy, fresh, lean and non-preservative-laden foods would fall on ears muted by visions of pork sizzling on the grill.
I am mystified by the ritual of men cooking over fire and chomping meat off the bones with their bare hands, sauce dripping from their fingers. I must’ve heard them point to their cooked pile of ribs, nod appreciatively toward each other and say “That’s a lot of meat!” about 20 times.
As I watched them lick their fingers and smack through their man-meal, I snuck a glance at the grill, which had settled back into its non-blazing state. It winked at me.
I rubbed my eyes in disbelief.
If it learns to do laundry and snuggle with my husband, my days may be numbered
This article first appeared in “The Lighter Side,” Capital Journal, Pierre, SD, June, 2010.