I know vegetarians and respect their choice to dine meatless. I also appreciate that they typically do not mind sitting across from me at a barbecue while I gnaw on a beef short rib. Because, you know, that’s the whole point of a summer barbecue – to grill and smoke meat!
As a typical human, I know that my teeth, anatomy and enzymes help me to eat just about anything considered fit for human consumption. We are probably omnivores as we can eat meats and vegetation as we choose. (Some people can’t or shouldn’t consume lactose, gluten, nuts or grains, for example, because of missing enzymes, auto-immune issues or allergies. And for them, my heart weeps.)
A plant-dominated diet is far better for overall health and we have in recent years cut back on our red meat consumption. I’ve never smelled a salad, though, and felt a primal surge of hunger like I do when I smell grilling meat.
Cooking outdoors allows surrounding neighbors to vicariously, or voyeuristic-ly, enjoy your dinner. When I smell a charcoal or wood fire, even tinged with the smell of lighter fluid, my mouth begins to water. Meat eaters – you know what I mean. Somewhere in your neighborhood a grill is burning, and you can tell whether it’s cooking steak, hamburgers or hot dogs. When chicken is on the menu, you can even detect what kind of marinade is in use.
Then there is a smoker, the holy grail of barbecuing. Smoking meat is not a casual affair. This is not turning the handle on a propane tank and producing a fully edible Zweigle’s in fifteen minutes. Smoking a rack of barbecue pork ribs, a beef brisket, a pork shoulder or even a salmon is easily a six hour affair.
All hail the barbecue gods – we were invited to a barbecue this weekend! Pork ribs, pulled pork, java-rubbed beef short ribs, smoked salmon, grilled Portobello mushrooms, coleslaw, macaroni salad, dressing-drenched Caesar salad, potato bombs*, green beans, fried plantains…I ate some of all. How could I not??
This is how it’s done:
– Gather in a backyard.
– Fill coolers with beverages.
– Shoo flies and bees from the generous spread of dips and chips.
– Invite friends, family, neighbors and their kids to trample your lawn and traipse through your house.
– Make fire.
– Cook meat.
– Eat food that you wouldn’t normally eat, at least not all at one time.
– Eat again.
– Light tiki torches.
– Swat mosquitoes.
– Watch shooting stars.
Barbecuing is a throwback to when early man made fire, cooked the spoils of the hunt, gathered the whole clan together to eat, and laughed under the stars. Diehards might don a parka to grill steaks or fry turkeys in the bitter cold of a northeastern winter, but no one is going to clear the snow off of a picnic table to sit down and eat it.
Standing at a grill or feeding charcoal to a smoker when the air temperature makes that almost unbearable? Well, that’s barbecuing, and it’s a Summer Classic.
* Potato Bomb: core a russet and fill the void with cheese, onion, butter, and choice of ham, bacon or sausage. Replace potato “plugs” and wrap in bacon. Wrap in foil and place on grill for an hour or so. You’re welcome.