Girls and Grillin’

CCNA’s Syndication Service is now syndicating James Barber, the Urban Peasant. Barber is an author, columnist, radio personality and one of the best known television cooks in the world. Read his free sample column and then visit to buy a subscription!

Have you ever wondered why it is, that it’s mostly men who barbecue? And why women just let them get on with it? From now on, all over North America, there’ll be guys in backyards burning dinner over some kind of flame. Barbecuing seems to bring out the Don Cherry in most men, and they need fancy tools, silly aprons and even books on the ART of Barbecuing, to persuade themselves that the fire is man’s proper place in the summer universe, and tending it ÔÇô a process at once too simple and too complicated for mere women to understand.

Women know better, they know this isn’t true, but they let the men deceive themselves for two reasons. One, they can’t be bothered to argue, but even more important they know that the main virtue of a barbecue is that nobody has to clean the oven afterwards, because even in this enlightened society this is a job very few men do. Unfortunately, leaving the barbecuing to the jocks means that barbecuing, if indeed it is an art, is not a developing art. It’s mostly meat and potatoes cooking, although after a couple of beers and some sun there’s always some egghead trying to convince you that smoke up the nose is a transcendental and religious experience. But if the men would only let women get near enough to the barbecue, there could be all kinds of nice alternatives to the basic hamburger. Some of which you might like to try.

Asparagus is in season right now. Get good big fat stalks of it, brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and stick them on the grill for no more than five minutes, turning them over just once. You’ll find they have a wonderfully nutty flavour. If you can find big fat spring onions they taste even better, and so do very small young leeks ÔÇô neither of them need any more preparation than a quick brush with olive oil. Then there are those red or green or yellow peppers ÔÇô you cut them into quarters, take out the seeds and cook them, skin side down, until the skin is blistered and blackened. Pop them in a plastic bag for ten minutes, then rub off the skin under a cold tap. They are sweet and tender, and if you cover them with olive oil they’ll keep, getting sweeter every day, for a week. Frozen prawns are cheap, and they can be enormously improved by marinating them, frozen as they come from the packet, in a bottle or two of beer and sprinkled generously with dill. Let them soak for an hour, and then barbecue them over a very hot flame. No more than two minutes each side.

No matter what you read about barbecuing whole salmon (and this is a real guy thing, the whole damn fish, man) the secret is DON’T. A whole salmon on a barbecue grill falls apart. Cut it into steaks or fillets, oil the grill very well and the fish very well, then barbecue it.

You can even do dessert. Barbecue thick slices of apple and sprinkle the tops with brown sugar for the last minute. Even halved grapefruit, sprinkled with brown sugar and cooked cut side up with the lid closed is a pleasant surprise.

So ladies, see if you can persuade the guys to let you wear the silly apron and have a go at the grill.

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