Thursday, June 09, 2005

BBQ Season

Due largely to the pervasive influence of television commercials promoting beer and soft drinks, barbecues have become an integral part of how Canadians define summer.
The idea behind the barbecue experience is that it’s supposed to return the participants to a simpler time, a time before mircowavable popcorn and instant coffee; a time when meat actually had to hunted and killed before it could be eaten, and coffee beans were ground by hand. According to aficionados, the barbecue event is a direct link to a more "natural" epoch in human existence when our cave-dwelling ancestors would get together with their extended families out behind the cave on Sunday afternoons to roast thick slabs of mastodons, and drink far too much fermented honey.
These primitive events were immensely popular, and the preparation of the food would often last until late into the night - although where they got the propane is not clear. Paleontologists disagree on how often these feasts were held, and what they were called at the time. The word "barbecue" is apparently a derivative of an ancient Germanic word for food poisoning. But researchers do agree that primitive barbecues were largely responsible for the slowed intellectual development of certain societies. Instead of being concerned with creating art and culture, the participants of these gatherings discussed little besides bragging about what great hunters they were, and betting on who would win the next game of kick-the-armadillo.
The Neanderthals apparently spent most of their time roasting meat, drinking fermented yak butter and watching armadillo games, activities that eventually drove them into extinction.
Anyway, although the concept of the backcave meat-fry hasn't evolved much, the equipment people use definitely has. "We don't do much cookin' in the kitchen during the summer," a friend told me recently. His tone of voice suggesting that anybody who would cook food indoors during the summer is a bit of a wimp and somehow un-Canadian. Then, to show how tough he is, he added that even when it rains, he just moves the barbecue into the garage and cooks there.
And because he does all this meat scorching, he has purchased a new barbecue system.
"You could do up a whole pig on this little beauty," he said, patting the beautifully gleaming black top of his New MeatMaster Thor 6000. "Give me a couple hours an' a case of beer, and I could cook enough meat in an afternoon to feed a army." He exaggerates, of course. It would take him at least the whole day to drink all that beer.
Looking at the Thor 6000, it’s no wonder my friend would rather cook outside than in his kitchen. With its four-tier, three-tank, forced-air, self-igniting, fully automatic flame adjusted, computer-controlled, touch-screen self-cleaning cooking "environment", the Thor 6000 is actually more efficient and more ergonomically functional than just about any kitchen. "Look here," my friend waved his spatula at the sun-sparkled chrome and steel. "It has a warmer oven and four fully adjustable gas burners where the wife can cook her rice and make coffee." Apparently rice is one of the very few foods that cannot be barbecued.
"The wife," meanwhile, is in the kitchen, making a caesar salad. Because she is a woman, she is not allowed to touch the Thor 6000 except to clean it periodically. This is for her own safety because it is a well-established myth in male society that women can only handle cooking when it is contained to stoves. Anthropologists point to this as an example of how the barbecue retards social evolution.
What "the wife" thought of the Thor 6000, by the way, was never discussed beyond the fact that the new barbecue system apparently cost about the same as it would have cost to have her kitchen remodeled. But 'nuff said about that, we're talking summer tradition here.
So, sated by pig meat and beer, I join all true Canadians in raising a glass of whichever of the most heavily advertised liquid refreshment we currently consider our favourite, and saluting that wonderful summer tradition that is the backyard barbecue. Were it not for the Thor 6000 and all similar primitive wonders, we wouldn't have these opportunities to get back to the basics of natural living at all.
Trying not to confuse the sun-screen with the meat sauce, I’m Otte Rosenkrantz.
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