Friday, February 13, 2009

Enjoying a Rare February Thaw

For those who follow my blog regularly, you’ll know if there is any one thing I love to do – besides working out – is to BBQ.

Even as I take the cover off, and scrub the grills, I’m having a blast. There is something special about the whole BBQ experience, something which – believe it or not – for this writer is hard to convey.

Maybe it’s in my genes, or because I’m a guy, but I love to BBQ so much, I even enjoy cleaning and fidgeting with the thing, to make sure all the nuts and bolts are tight and in place.

Grilling meat is nothing new – it’s the way our earliest of ancestors, the so-called “caveman,” first discovered the power of fire. Back then, fire pits were created by digging holes in the ground, covering them with rocks for a base, and then using twigs, branches, leaves and other plants for fuel. Animals were chopped into bite-size chunks, and skewered. The skewers were held over the fire, usually until they were blackened and hard. The meat was pure game – whatever was obtainable – and whatever the cavemen caught.

Too bad they didn’t invent BBQ sauce until much later!

Over the years, BBQing has become easier. My high-tech grill even has a thermometer, so I know how hot it is.

I remember my dad lugging out one of those old fashioned round metal BBQs, suspended on what looked like the most flimsy of criss-crossed metal legs. He’d pour in the charcoal, spray what appeared to be way too much lighter fluid, stood back, and tossed one lit match, and then POOOF! One big fire ball.

Eventually the fire ball would subside, and as the coals turned from black to white, he’d toss on the meat.

There were no thermometers on BBQs back then. The only way to see if anything was ready was to “test it” by cutting into it with a fork and knife. If the juices ran all bloody, than it wasn’t ready. Though this occasionally led to the meat getting a little too well done – what you can call Chicago Style, to cover up the fact that it’s burnt to a crisp.

Interesting thing about Chicago Style – named because of the famous fire which destroyed most of the American city of the same name at the start of the century – some meats actually taste better this way. The “gamier” the meat, the better it tastes well done. I can eat a fine sirloin of beef rare, but if that sirloin comes from a deer (called venison) then I’ll just have to eat it crispy.

I don’t usually go for the gamier cuts of meat – I’m a good ‘ol fashioned steak and potato guy. So most of what I cook for myself is medium-rare.

This past week and even today, the weather has been unusually warm. Perfect BBQing weather! Though truthfully, I do BBQ all year ‘round. I’ve got a nice exclusive place, covered from all the elements. So whether it’s a torrent of rain, a burst of heavy snow, or even a hurricane-like wind blowing, I have been out there, BBQing.

But thanks to this rare break from winter’s deep freeze, I’m really having an awesome time out with my grill. The sun is even out in full force, making this winter seem more like an early summer’s day.

As I type this on my laptop, I’m watching my BBQ heat up. The smell of the BBQ is so very enticing. It’s a mix-mash of all the previous things I’ve created – from simple burgers, steaks and chicken, to the more complex, like roasting veggies, toasting garlic bread, or even making some cool BBQ deserts.

Sitting out on a patio chair in the middle of February BBQing may not be the norm – but it is an incredible experience.

Usually during the winter, I’ll go in and out throughout the BBQing cycle, constantly watching the thing from my wall of warmth of indoors. But today, it’s just like summertime, only slightly cooler.

And it’s nice to be outside watching the world from high atop my 22-story high-rise perch. I’m so high up, I can and do see all, but none can see me. A perfect way to enjoy the world, with some much needed privacy.

I can hardly wait for the sizzle – the sounds of meat meeting grill. Then the smoke, and FIRE!

Just kidding – after all the BBQs I’ve had, rarely do I burn anything. Unless you like it that way.

How do you like your steak?

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