Sunday, May 27, 2001

Many reasons why men become grill guys

        Smell the smoke and see the flame, and most likely you'll find a man behind the grill this summer. According to a Weber “Grill-Line” (800-474-5568) survey, nearly 60 percent of callers say men do the grilling in their family (21 percent say women do the grilling and 21 percent say “both” grill).

        Why do men love to grill, considering most still don't prepare indoor family meals? Is it the common theory that man is continuing his prehistoric role as hunter, cooking the catch over fire?

        Sherrie Inness, an associate professor of English at Miami University-Hamilton and author of Dinner Roles: American Women and Culinary Culture (University of Iowa Press; $17.95), believes advertising in the first half of the 20th century convinced us man should cook outdoors.

        “The emphasis was the man should be out there (grilling),” she says. “And often the message was: "Women will only ruin the meat.”'

        Of course, we know male grillers also are perfectly capable of ruining meat.

        After only a little reflection, I have developed my own theories to explain why, when the weather warms, men are drawn to the grill.

        Men like to think they're in charge: Give them fire and a steak, and most men honestly believe the entire meal depends on them. Few guy grillers realize someone else (usually a woman) is tossing the salad, baking the potatoes, boiling the corn, baking the cake, setting the table and pouring the lemonade.

        Men excel under lowered expectations: Guys will be among the first to criticize Aunt May's pie crust (after wolfing two slices), but don't you dare mention the inch-thick sooty char on the T-bone. “Hey, I'm cooking raw meat over a blazing inferno with the wind blowing and bugs flying here. What do you expect? Perfection?

        There's nothing worth watching on TV: The Super Bowl and Final Four are long gone, and even The Sopranos is in reruns. Given the option, most men would prefer to grill tofu than getting weepy watching an old episode of Providence. Heck, most wish they'd air Ally McBeal in prime grilling time.

        Men like to be waited on: Nothing new here except for the outdoor location. “I can't leave the grill now, I have to watch the chicken. Can you bring me some chips and beer?”

        Men love gadgets: Highly paid researchers can't explain it, but men get absolutely giddy over gizmos they believe help them cook in the wilderness that most of us know as the “back deck.” Give it an electronic display or singing beep, and guy grillers will buy it. A few will figure out how to use it.

        Men hate to clean up: Drop a burger or chicken leg on the patio, and guys will send Spike to lick it up (or worse, they will invoke the “five second” rule and slap the meat back on the platter before anyone notices). And everyone knows men don't scrub and scrape grill grates as directed in the manual. “Burning it off” is the manly way to clean.

        It's a female conspiracy: During the last century, women decided they had no desire to sweat by a flaming grill, swatting mosquitoes, waiting for a semi-frozen beef slab to turn the proper shade. Why not convince men-folk it's their primal duty to barbecue? This explains all those goofy grilling gifts women and their co-conspirator children lovingly bestow on Dad.

        Men who want to appear more sensitive can add this recipe to their repertoire. If other guys kid them about grilling vegetables, they should mention Argentines typically serve eggplant with seared, thick steaks and organ meats.


        • 2 cloves garlic, minced
        • 3 tablespoons olive oil
        • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
        • 1 teaspoon dried basil
        • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
        • 1 teaspoon hot or sweet paprika
        • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
        • 3 eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
        • Salt and black pepper, to taste

        Preheat grill to high. Mix minced garlic with oil in small bowl. Mix herbs, paprika and pepper flakes together and set aside.

        Brush one side of each eggplant slice with garlic oil and place oiled side down on grill. Brush top side with oil. Cook eggplant slices until browned, 3 to 5 minutes, and turn. Sprinkle eggplant with herb mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook another 3 to minutes. Serve hot. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

        — Adapted from The Barbecue! Bible (Workman; $18.95)



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