September 10, 1999
The summer's almost over. For most men that means the end
of their favourite outdoor activity - barbequing.
I for one refuse to hang up the tongs just because the days
are getting shorter. With a gas barbeque, I happily look after
the family cooking all through the winter. There's something
very Canadian about standing in three feet of snow flipping hamburgers.
And the big advantage to winter cookouts is there's no tell-tale
grass and dirt when you drop a hotdog in a snow bank.
A gas barbeque cuts down on freezer burn (I mean of the cook,
not the food) during the winter. Four hours with the old coals
and lighter fluid is just too challenging in sub-zero weather.
But a gas barbeque is sometimes no picnic either. On every
new barbeque I have ever owned, the electronic starter button
only works once. After that first push you can never get it to
Now I'm forced to turn on the gas and throw matches at it
from 6 feet away. The mushroom cloud from the propane explosion
in my backyard is often visible for miles. Occasionally I've
even attracted a handful of disappointed no-nukes protestors.
The other result of these Hindenberg-like gas explosions is
extremely smooth skin. The backs of my hands have absolutely
no hair. And my eyebrows are starting to fill in nicely again.
I don't dare grow sideburns due to the risk of brush fires.
After a while the barbeque itself starts to show its age.
You notice that when you take the propane tank to be filled at
the local gas station, the clerks hook it up and then run for
cover. The barbeque's insides rust out, and pretty soon you no
longer have a nice, even cooking surface. What I have now is
more like one huge flame that shoots out of the grill like an
Still, there's something special about a man's relationship
with his beef, if you'll pardon the expression. My friend Rob
loves barbeques. I think he has photos of every steak I have
ever cooked. He always brings his camera and makes me pose with
the sirloin on a fork.
Looking at Rob's album of the steaks and pork chops we have
known makes me think that we're really just a short step away
from our ancestors' cave paintings of bison. The difference being
that cave men never ran out of propane in the middle of having
a dozen people over to the cave for dinner.
And no matter what those billboards say, I like red meat. If
God didn't want us to eat meat, He wouldn't have given us barbeque
We have vegetarian friends, and I'll throw a parsnip or zucchini
on the barbie for them, but it's somehow not the same. Maybe
they'll live longer, but I suspect it really only just feels
With the summer almost gone the biggest barbequing handicap
is the shorter days. Often I'm out back slaving over a flaming
grill in total darkness. It's hard enough cooking everything
to order when you can see. Now I don't know how well done anything
is until you get inside.
So if you come to our house after Labour Day, please let me
know how you want your steak: well done, charred, or Mount St.