Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here’s this week’s! Even if you’re not Canadian, I think you’ll say “my husband does that, too!”
Last week, as thunder rolled and gray clouds threatened, I performed the female mad dash better entitled “frantically bringing in the laundry from the line before the storm hits.” I assumed my husband felt the same reticence about the weather. “Can you still barbecue in this?” I asked him, quickly running through the alternate dinners we could make if burgers were off the menu. He sneered in reply. “Of course I can,” he said. “I’m a Canadian man.”
Canadian men barbecue. I suspect this attachment to the gas-powered device is largely because it comes with big tools. These aren’t wimpy tongs, the kind you use to mix up spinach and mandarin salad. Barbecuing is primitive, masculine stuff, even if his top of the line appliance cost $800 at Canadian Tire.
With barbecues, too, you get to stab meat. My husband loves cooking roasts, spearing them onto the metal spit. What’s more manly than roasting meat on a spit? When I cook a roast in the oven or the crockpot, I surround it with terrible things like carrots, or even worse, turnips or parsnips. Vegetables aren’t manly. And barbecuing on spits avoids them all together. It’s the perfect masculine endeavour.
And yet men, when barbecues are near, will condescend to wear clothing that they would never wear anywhere else. They are so proud of their ability to turn meat on a grill that they will don an apron, and, in the case of large parties, even a big, fluffy hat adorned with a message admonishing all present to “Kiss the Chef”. When one is near a barbecue, one’s manliness is guaranteed, so that wearing what would normally be considered feminine attire is perfectly acceptable, sort of like the way football players pat each other on the behind.
I also find it curious how barbecuing males will claim credit for the meal, even if it’s the woman who bought all the food, mixed the Caesar salad and the potato salad, sliced the pickles and the tomatoes, made up the lemonade, set the table, and prepared the dessert. He flipped a few burgers and everyone thanks him, rather than addressing their gratitude towards the woman and the kids who were scurrying around getting everything else ready.
But I don’t begrudge my husband the accolades, because if truth be known, I have never actually even turned our barbecue on. It is so much his domain that I’m lost if he’s on call and doesn’t come home when I’ve planned to have steaks. A few weeks ago my oldest daughter and one of her friends decided they would try to cook the chicken burgers, despite their lack of testosterone, since Keith decided not to grace us with his presence. But they didn’t know how to turn the barbecue on, either. So they called him, and he told them how to turn the knobs. And turn them they did.
A few minutes later Rebecca asked me, “isn’t there supposed to be a flame? I hear a hissing, but no flame.” Even without testosterone I know that’s a bad thing, so I quickly turned off the dials and forbade anyone from going near for at least fifteen minutes. My mother-in-law, who had received frantic phone calls from the girls asking what to do, continued to call our house at frequent intervals that night to ensure no one had actually been blown up.
And so we leave the cooking meat over a fire to my husband, who does prepare a very juicy roast. I may complement his offering with a bowl of vegetables anyway, and serve it with some salad, but it’s still his meal. He’s a Canadian man, and he’s proud. I think I’ll go kiss him.
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