May Long Weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and with that, the start of the barbecue season. If you’ve taken the winter off from this sublime outdoor cooking activity, it’s time to get re-acquainted.
In our house it’s the only type of cooking exclusively for dad, meaning I do it from start to finish — probably because there is an element of danger involved.
Either I could set something on fire with the charcoal briquettes, or it’s "boom-boom in the backyard" when the igniter hesitates in lighting the propane pouring into the grill, eventually sending me to 30 000 feet to wave to a passing WestJet pilot.
There is no definitive history about how the word "barbecue" originated — or why it’s sometimes used as a noun, verb, or adjective. But it’s usually in the U.S. where it is used as a noun, as in "Come on over and eat some barbecue." And that barbecue is usually pork.
As for how I use the word, it’s often a verb, as in "I’m gonna barbecue meat non-stop every weekend for the rest of the summer." Or I, too, can do the noun thing, as in "If you catch me at home any weekend through the summer, chances are the barbecue will be going."
It is my favourite appliance, my favourite activity, cooking my favourite food. And if it somehow became illegal to barbecue in Canada, I’d be mailin’ my passport back to Ottawa, and start selling contraband charcoal grills out of the trunk of my car!
Twelve months of the year, it is simply the best — made even better when the warmer months make it that much more enjoyable to be outside for the experience.
Some say the Christopher Columbus’s Spanish crew members from Basque get the credit for the word barbecue, which is derived from their "barbacoa", which is an American-Indian word for the framework of green wood (or the first grill) where food was placed for cooking over hot coals.
Others think the French were responsible, as Caribbean pirates cooked animals on a spit that ran from "whiskers to tail" or "de barbe a` queue."
As for the talent itself, Steve Anytaya (from CKLQ) and I had a blast competing as a team during the Summer Fair in their annual (now extinct) barbecue rib cook-off, finishing in the top three a couple of years.
But it was more the Jack Daniels cooking method we employed that guaranteed to finish us both each year.
Some of the competitors took the event pretty seriously, with equipment that rivalled what you might see on The Food Network.
Competitive barbecuing is one of the hottest hobbies in North America, with hundreds of cook-offs held each summer, including one each August in Winnipeg.
The biggest and most famous are Memphis in May and The American Royal in Kansas City. Both cities stake their claim to being the barbecue capital of the U.S.
According to the 25th annual Weber Grill Watch Survey, 70 per cent of people currently own an outdoor barbecue grill. The most popular barbecue utensils are long-handled tongs (77 per cent), followed by forks (64 per cent), long handled spatulas (59 per cent), and grill-cleaning brushes (63 per cent).
The most popular foods for cooking on the grill are: burgers (85 per cent), steak (80 per cent), hot dogs (79 per cent) and chicken (73 per cent).
The side dishes most commonly prepared on the grill are: corn (41 per cent), potatoes (41 per cent) and other vegetables (32 per cent).
The most popular flavours of barbecue sauce are hickory, followed by mesquite, honey, and then spicy hot.
Apparently the five best things to grill (besides burgers and hot dogs) are oysters, followed by grilled cheese and other sandwiches, pizza, beer can chicken, and fruit.
Although the thought of grilling ham and pineapple has crossed my mind, I’ve never gotten around to putting fruit on the barbecue yet.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve cooked on the grill?
Wendy Medicine — bacon and eggs
Carla Slimmon — sausages, roasts, corn on the cob ... almost everything gets put on the barbecue. I hate heating up the house in summer with the stove/oven.
Aimee Hatcher — asparagus and salmon
Andi Robertson-Fortune — romaine lettuce for grilled caesar salad
Dawn Unger — sliced potatoes in tin foil with butter, dill and salt and pepper to taste
Michelle Brau — pizza is really good
Melanie Wilson — corn on the cob, diced potatoes in tin foil with butter. Smores wrapped in foil are also very good.
Suzie Moar — corn, veggie kabobs and fruit kabobs, grilled zucchini
Kayla Graham — tomatoes with parmesan cheese or mozzarella cheese. Mmm.
Jillian Vanderheiden — Asparagus! Oh so good! Then top with a bit of garlic butter and sea salt. Delish!
Jackie Maguathi — pineapple and mango
Becky Han — veggies like asparagus, corn on the cob, zucchini, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Pineapple is the best grilled fruit.
Natasha Marshall — asparagus and shrimp ... and I love grilled pineapple!
Karen Rudachyk — ribs, tinfoil potatoes, asparagus.
I’m gonna try the pineapple and that caesar salad. The thought of a hot salad is kinda weird but after seeing it done online, it looks like it might work. Oh well, we have all summer to discover new foods for the grill.
Make no mistake, tipping back the beer and flipping meat is not easy. But it is nice to have help. So to all the "assistants" to grillers everywhere in Westman, we salute you. Thanks for running to get us a beer so our stuff doesn’t burn.
Enjoy the long weekend and enjoy your grill. And remember, for pork and chicken, it’s better to burn than undercook, and for beef, you’re better to undercook than burn. And if everything ends up burnt, my second favourite cooking appliance after the barbecue grill is the phone — for take-out.
JOKE THIS WEEK
Ted and his wife were working in their garden one day when Ted looks over at his wife and says: "Your bum is getting big, I mean really big! I bet its bigger than the barbecue."
With that he proceeded to get a measuring tape and measure the grill and then went over to where his wife was working and measured his wife’s bottom.
"Yes, I was right, your butt is two inches wider than the barbecue!"
The wife chooses to ignore her husband. Later that night in bed, Ted is feeling a little frisky. He makes some advances towards his wife who completely brushes him off.
"What’s wrong?" he asks.
She answers: "Do you really think I’m going to fire up this big grill for one little weenie?"
Stacie Gray Turner
Judy A McClelland
Amanda Jayne Deuchars
Suzanne Evanonki Atkinson