Barbecuing – man’s failed search for identity

Our latest column from William Thomas

It has always been thought that men began cooking outdoors as suburban living crept across North America in the 1940s and 1950s. It was, they said, an act to assert men’s masculinity.

No, sorry. Men barbecue because it’s in our DNA and has been since fire made meat sizzle and dating involved a club. Men cook meat on an outside grill because for that brief and glorious time with a drink in one hand and tongs in the other, we are allowed to be Neanderthals again. And let me tell ya, that euphoria stays with a man right up until the moment his wife slams down his health card on the counter at the burn unit.

I know, I’m a bit of a grill master myself. I barbecue three times a week all year round. I have a customized barrel pit that burns wood, a cast iron barbeque that uses charcoal and a copper Turkish grill that uses both hardwood and coals. I even invented a ‘teepee pulley system’ that fits over all these cookers allowing me to raise or lower the grill according to the intensity of the heat.

That said, I still can’t believe that I did not invent ‘beer can chicken,’ the greatest barbecue accessory since fire itself. All we know is that it originated in Louisiana. But, I’m pretty sure I know how it was invented.

‘Backyard Bob’ from Baton Rouge was headed out to the barbecue with his seventh beer after telling his wife he had already quit after two. The chicken which he forgot to butterfly was roasting over the coals, sort of.

“Coming out to help you, honey,” she yelled through the kitchen window. “Need anything?”

Suddenly Bob had a few difficult decisions to make whereas only moments ago – like all men who see barbecuing as a drinking game – his mind was as vacant as the overgrown lot next door.

Tossing the cold can of beer into the shrubs was not an option because… it’s a cold can of beer for godsakes!

He thought about jamming the beer can into the front pocket of his sweats but protruding out his pants like that might give his wife a hint of how much he really liked his grill. So he did what any real man would do: he rammed the can of beer up the chicken’s ass and when asked by his wife – “What the hell is that?” – he made up a story of how he saw this chef on a TV cooking show do it and it made the chicken…

Bob blanked out watching his cold beer begin to steam up through the bird.

“Angry?” offered his wife.

“No, moist. It made the chicken juicy.” Which it does. But ‘Backyard Bob’ can never take credit for inventing beer can chicken otherwise his wife will leave him and this time for good.

Men cooking over fire is an ancient custom predating iron, the invention of the wheel and Hazel McCallion. It’s estimated that Homo habilia’s unusually small brain had the reasoning capacity of an American Idol judge. Still, he managed to create fire to both heat his cave and roast mammals that were slower afoot then himself He employed a vocabulary of five words: “fire good” and “little fella tasty”. That was pretty much it. These were good times for prehistoric humans. Men hunted and barbecued what they caught; women gathered wood and fashioned bulky clothes from animal skins. Man cooked everything that moved, the minute it didn’t. Foreplay involved a headlock and noggie.

Only man could have invented fire because only a man would sit for several days rubbing two sticks together and expecting something to happen. One day it did and the two-piece, sun dried wooly mammoth jump suit he was wearing burst into flames. Man created fire on the same day woman discovered laughter.

Then suddenly the earth began to warm up, much like today. They needed to wear less animal skins. Man’s vocabulary expanded from “fire good” to “woman hot” and “little fella over-cooked.” Like today, man claimed that the meat was not burned, it was cooked “Cajun.” Woman did not believe him.

Yes man became distracted by woman who was now wearing mini marmot-skin dresses and ferret-fur thongs in earth tones. Man began to burn everything from the meat on the stick to the hair on his arms, which was considerable. He began to heavily ingest fermented mead while cooking which only made things worse. “Wow! Woman T-shirt wet!”

When man could no longer complete the simple task of roasting meat over fire, false idols appeared selling new methods of cooking like the Cro-Magnon Grill and the George Forman wood-fired rotisserie oven in which the spit was turned by spinning gerbils that later served as appetizers.

Delusional, he began to drink heavily both during the cooking session and the meal. He drank Lite Mead to lose weight, but he drank so much of it he always looked bloated. Sometimes he would fall into the flames and the drink in his hand would splash all over the food. He claimed he was ‘marinating.’ Woman did not believe him.

Barbaric man had lost his touch; the simple gift of searing meat by flame was gone. At wits end, he tried all manner of cooking systems and he even invented a “teepee pulley system” that fit over… maybe I’ve said too much.

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