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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Seasoning the BBQ in the BBQ Season

Summer is the season of the barbeque, as we all know. Barbeques are a classic kiwi tradition, as I'm sure they are in much of the rest of the world. Yes, for some reason we seem to think this is a unique condition.

I have a few curious observations to make about barbeques and the culture that surrounds them, which I'd like to share. Please be aware, some gentle male sensibilities may be offended (the rest of us are permitted to laugh ourselves silly, if we so desire).

For starters, I have yet to understand why barbeque tools seem to come in such ridiculous sizes. Personally, I use the little paring knife and a pair of tongs from the kitchen when I barbeque. We concluded that the reason for barbeque tools being so stupidly big is so that men can stand around the barbeque with their beers in one hand and compare the sizes of their tools.

Which I'm sure is also not a uniquely kiwi practice.

While we're on the subject of men and their misplaced sense of entitlement to the role of barbeque chef, may I ask what it is about having the appropriate chromosomes that makes so many males think that suddenly, despite not having stepped in front of any piece of cooking equipment more technical than a toaster for ten months of the year, they can suddenly claim dominion over the outdoor gas (or charcoal) grill? They then proceed to stand over said grill, drink beer, talk sh!t, burn the sausages, reduce the steak to hunks of leather, drink more beer, talk more sh!t, and complain about where the salad is and why the bread isn't buttered already.

Gents, I hang my head in embarrasment for you. The barbeque's a glorified frying pan, that's all, and if you can't drive a frypan, then you have no right to ruin everyone else's food by declaring yourself its master. "BBQ FLAVOUR" is not a substitute for basic culinary competence. Get into the kitchen, make the salad and butter the bread, and let the cooks do the cooking.

Full credit to all those men who can and do cook; you have every right to be out there, drinking beer and talking sh!t to your hearts' content (so long as you made the salad and buttered the bread before you started!).

The other thing that men seem incapable of doing more often than not is cleaning the barbeque after it's been used. The excuse for this is also BBQ FLAVOUR, that indefinable taste which seems to be not so much a matter of ingredients and technique but rather one of cultivation; as in, strains of bacteria. Perhaps there is some primal urge among men to bulk up their immune systems by allowing all manner of germs and micro-organisms to breed on "their" cooking grills, and the obligatory overcooking of any meat that comes within range is therefore more a matter of survival than anything else. That special flavour can only be achieved by allowing the petrie dish to fester and then cooking that flavour off onto the meat, which must then be virtually incinerated to ensure it is safe to eat. All of this men know instinctively, and is perhaps why they can't actually cook on a barbeque despite what all the advertising tries to tell us.

Please note, I write the above lines in the full knowledge that my own barbeque is sitting outside uncleaned since last I used it, but I assure you it will get a thorough scrub before it is used next.

Do I have anything useful to say, or am I just taking great pleasure in deriding my fellow man? (Ah, the joy of picking on people who aren't here to defend themselves...)

In fact, I do. This comes back to the cleaning of the barbeque. There is the small matter of the last of the soapy taste that you can't quite get rid of, and who wants to cook on that?
Here's the solution:Chop up a large onion and a handful of fresh herbs and garlic, mix it up with some rice bran oil and freshly ground pepper and salt, get the barbeque really hot and season it with the onion-herb mixture. Cook this stuff right down, constantly shifting it around the grill. Some of it will stick, and thats OK. Scoop the rest off, and you have a seasoned barbeque, with no soapy residue whatsoever. Real Barbeque Flavour, without the heirloom cultures.
A couple of weeks ago Liz E. Bear's Mum brought a pile of steak around, dressed in fresh sage and rosemary from their garden, and I didn't want to waste it. So I proceeded to RESEASON the grill with the herbs before cooking the steak, letting them wilt and adding a little more oil and salt, so that there was a lovely herbed oil sizzling away on the barbeque for the steak to go onto. I then removed the herbs and put the steak on to cook, placing the wilted herbs back on top of them to infuse the meat as it cooked.
Blimmin' delicious it was. And if you want to know how to cook the perfect steak, go read this too.

Hooray for real Barbeque Flavour!

P.S. To anyone out there who may feel offended by what I've said here, tough. Pun intended.

EDIT: Go on, read the comments. You know you want to. Heeheehee.


Leah said...

Love it, Dan!

Jenni said...

OMG this post made me insanely hungry.

Anonymous said...

Good food and some interesting if poorly researched comment about men and bbq's.A few pointers from a man. The bbq tools are long so one does not burn ones hands on the large heat source the grill creates. Beer is to pour on any burns created by using tongs that are too short. Men call dominion over the bbq as they are always the poor smuck that has to pop out for a refill bottle [it seems you need a penis to do this job].Thirdly cleaning the grill when you are full of bbq food sucks and I can't even get my wife to close the lid after use. So the sad fact is that you are going to have to eat burnt man food until you start filling the bottle and putting the lid down. Cheers Head BBQ cook.

Dan said...

Dear Anonymous:

Research? What research? Simple observation over years of standing around barbeques, drinking beer and talking sh!t.

You might have missed the point that I am in fact a man and I do the cooking most of the time. So I can write this from a point of authority (apart from the bacteria theorem - that is pure speculation which I'm hoping the Nobel Society will pick up on and award me some sort of ... award ... for).

Fair call on the bottle dilemma; I can concur that is indeed the case, though because our barbeque uses so little gas it seems that years pass between fills for us - usually it's long enough for the price to jump painfully, anyway.

And generally I find those long tools to be clumsy at the far end, with unusually unwieldy handle bits. Maybe it's because I spend too much time using proper kitchen implements, and I should shed these shackles of civilisation and get back to my primal, more neanderthal roots. Big man poke fire with stick. Grrr.

Mmmmm. Me smell like mammoth steak. Nom nom nom nom.

Head BBQ Chef said...

I get the point that your a bloke talking about BBQ as I too am a full time cook caregiver. I just think that the testosterone part of BBQ is a huge part of the mystique of the food cooked outside on big frying pan. Just say no to incinerated snarlers and keep the girls away from BBQ's. Kia kaha

Dan said...

Nice one Head BBQ Chef! Keep it up. ;)


Anonymous said...

I like to call the cultures "the ghost of meals past"

Laura Eno said...

Great, Dan! Neanderthal cooking utensils. Love it!