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Guys and Grills

Squirrel? What Squirrel? Here, have a burger...

Fish gotta swim.

Birds gotta fly.

Men gotta barbe-cue 'til they die…

With a full apology to Oscar Hammerstein II, what is it about guys and grills?

Consider the case of my perfectly abnormal husband Greg, a man so immune to sports that he never even watches the Superbowl unless he places a bet (which happens about once every eight years -- girlfriends, aren't you jealous). But drop Greg in the middle of any outdoor gathering in America, and within minutes he'll be holding forth on the virtues of charcoal versus gas, mesquite versus hickory, etc., etc., to a rapt audience composed of everything from Navy pilots to bicycle couriers.

Of course, Greg may be caught up in the passion of the newly converted. The apartment we lived in for the first years of our marriage didn't offer many options for outdoor cooking. Even after we bought a detached house of our very own, I dodged the barbecue bullet for eight years by cleverly diverting Greg's attention to the rusting propane grill bequeathed us by the previous owner.

Unfortunately, Crescent Blues assistant editor Teri Smith unilaterally decided to hold a barbecue at our house early last month. With her husband SJ, Teri convinced Greg to abandon his efforts to resurrect the propane model and switch to charcoal. The death of a thousand cuts awaits them both. Soon. Very soon. Or as soon I can find my knife rack in the blue haze that used to be my kitchen.

Greg invested in a covered grill with all the trimmings, and like all not-so-little boys in the grip of a new toy, he can't leave it alone. I've eaten nothing but smoked food for ten days: smoked pork roast, smoked beef, smoked barbecued chicken, smoked potatoes, smoked onions, smoked carrots, smoked celery… My body now harbors enough free radicals to overthrow three banana republics. Greg whispers sweet nothings like "matchless" and "open flame," and my right eye begins to twitch. And don't let me near the summer cooking displays in the supermarket. Please, don't!

Worse yet, I can't refuse Greg's burnt offerings. He views them as a primitive and powerful testament to love -- rather like the still shuddering carcass of mastodon the first Nimrod dumped in front of his true love's fire. Men, it appears, do not equate love with convenience unless it involves custody of the remote control.

Personally, I suspect an open fire comes as close as Greg can get to food that goes BOOM without actually reducing the comestible to kibble. But I won't tell him that. More than a little Dr. Frankenstein lurks in the dark cavern's of my darling spouse's brain. No need to challenge him to new depths -- er, heights of invention.

Explosive stories are another matter. This month's lead features include Patricia Lucas White's double interview with Pauline Baird Jones and Jeff Strand, two hard-writing cut-ups who routinely raise eyebrows all over the Web. Meanwhile, Robin Lee Hatcher raises spirits and explodes a few myths about inspirational fiction in her first interview following her selection as the winner of Romance Writers of America's 2001 Lifetime Achievement Award.

We hope you'll enjoy them and the other stories of summer at Crescent Blues.

Jean Marie Ward

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