Here’s how I know that I’m not a traditional alpha male: the idea of grilling does NOTHING for me. I simply do not have the ‘barbecue gene’ in my DNA. I’m fairly certain I have the ‘show tunes gene,’ but that’s rarely needed at a backyard picnic.
Sure, I enjoy the taste of barbecued meat, but I have no interest in creating it. Anthropologically, I get it. The whole ‘primal flashback to killing a wooly mammoth and throwing its carcass onto an open fire’ thing. But the deal is, human society has evolved, and now we can cook INDOORS.
The problem I have with the ‘primal’ argument for grilling’s appeal is that most people who throw slabs of dead animal on the fire didn’t hunt and kill the animal themselves. (Yes, vegetarians, I know you can grill vegetables, too. Not my point. Calm down.)
It’s just that you don’t really get that connection to primitive times and feel a visceral bond with your food if you’re slapping lamb patties from Trader Joe’s on your Weber. You should have to kill a damned sheep.
I don’t embrace outdoor cooking for the same reason I don’t churn my own butter or do the dishes in a wooden barrel – because I don’t have to! Romanticize your primitive ancestors all you want; I like to believe that my forebears wandered for centuries looking for somewhere to plug in a toaster oven.
Beyond the convenience, cooking inside the home offers a multitude of advantages for the modern family. For instance, you’ll probably have fewer bugs crawling near or landing on your food (unless you happen to be renting this studio apartment I had in Chicago). And the most amazing benefit to cooking inside? If it starts to rain, you can continue to cook! Again, unless you’re in that apartment I mentioned.
There’s also very little subtlety to cooking on a grill for most folks. It’s usually some guy on his fifth beer saying things like “How pink do you want your burger?” or “Could someone go back inside and get the ketchup?” And occasionally there’s “How long do you think we can leave the potato salad out?”
Here’s how nuanced grilling is -- a website purporting to be a complete resource for grilling techniques addresses the all-important temperature issue thusly:
“So how hot is hot? The rule is to hold your hand above the cooking grate and start counting (until you can’t hold your hand there anymore)…five seconds for ‘low,’ four seconds for ‘medium,’ two seconds for ‘high.’”
Grilling culture is still dominated by men, I suppose because men are usually more about tools than technique. I’ve had more than one male friend rave about his new grill in terms usually reserved for a new girlfriend. Not too many men will call you into the kitchen and say, “Hey, Jim, check out my new five-speed blender –she’s a beauty, isn’t she?”
Having never bought a grill, I was curious how much people spend for the pleasures of cooking alfresco. A hundred bucks? Five hundred? It is just a glorified fire pit, right? Then I found this:
The Talos Outdoor Cooking Suite is an open-air professional kitchen. The hand-crafted stainless steel exterior houses a 42” grilling area, three 25,000 BTU cast burners, a 20,000 BTU searing station and griddle, a hardwood cutting board, rotisserie, sink and a warming drawer. It even has a bartending station.
Because when the guys are over at my place (“It’s show tunes night, guys!”) I need almost FOUR FEET of grilling space. Oh, and you can’t really cook without having at least enough BTUs to power a steam locomotive. And I can’t count the number of friends who have left my place disappointed because I don’t have a dedicated ‘searing station.’
What I love is that it’s described as a ‘professional kitchen.’ I’m almost sure that anyone who can afford this probably could put all of these features in their ACTUAL kitchen, eliminating the need to go outside at all. But maybe I just don’t get it.
Incidentally, the above model retails at thirty-five THOUSAND dollars. You and your friends could fly to Argentina for dinner with that money. Or buy a couple dozen cows and you’ve got steaks for years.
Or you could buy a decent car for thirty-five grand and just go to a drive-through. In fact, the only way spending that much on a grill makes sense is if it somehow also functioned as a car. Now that would be something to brag about