Beat your Chest and Light the Grill

Last weekend I was taking my time through the Mad River Valley in Vermont and stopped at a roadside establishment simply known as The Store. Browsing through the antiques and local specialty foods, I was drawn to a wall filled with cookbooks. As I scanned the titles, the proprietor approached and asked in a gentle voice if I was a cook. I said, “Yes,” as she slid out a copy of How to Grill: The Complete Illustrated Book of Barbecue Techniques.

How to grill? At first I was a little offended, but on the cover saw a familiar face peering through circular sunglasses.

You may know Steven Raichlen from his show on PBS called Primal Grill, where in each episode you’re given a back lawn lesson in grilling. Step by step you see how it’s done and through his casual narration learn those all important reasons why. This is replicated nicely in How to Grill with the help of food stylist Rebecca Flast and food photographer Greg Schneider.

In the introduction Raichlen explains how, before writing the book, he wanted to understand which types of questions to cover. While conducting live chats and facilitating discussions on BarbecueBible.com, the author noticed how women directly asked questions and men would preface their queries with, “This is what I do and it turns out great, but I’m not sure I’m doing it right.” Later on they’d confess, “My steaks are always tough.”

That got me thinking about gender differences and grilling. I’m still not sure why it’s traditionally a man-thing. For some it’s simple – you build the fire and cook the meat – but all too often the fire’s too hot and the meat ends up burnt. Through all his media, Steven Raichlen demonstrates how it’s the tricky little nuances that make the difference between the act and art of grilling.