Last year I blogged that I let down myself and the women of the world by failing to teach my 22-year-old son to cook.
It wasn’t intentional. Cooking and meal prep fell through the cracks between sports practices, CCD and other extracurricular activities that often conflicted with dinner time and family meals.
I’m happy to report that after that blog, my son took a keen interest in cooking, or at least putting up a pot of homemade chili during visits home from college. But it gets better: the kid loves to grill, meaning for the first time in years I have someone to barbecue meat, chicken, fish and vegetables.
I know lots of guys who hate to cook, but are kings when it comes to grilling. There’s something about cooking meat over an open flame in the great outdoors that brings out the caveman in a lot of men.
I’ve always envied women married to these guys. The Curmudgeon has never grilled nor sought to prove his mettle over a fire pit. Since we married in 1983, he’s been very happy to leave grilling to me, which may explain why we rarely cooked outside until now.
An estimated 50 percent of American men handle grilling in their households, with only about 22 percent of women in charge of it. I guess the other 28 percent share grilling duties or don’t grill at all.
I know it sounds sexist, but I usually associate grilling with men. I asked my son why it’s so appealing: “It’s satisfying,” he said. “The sound of the meat sizzling, the flames and the smoke. I think it’s a manly thing.”
My Dad didn’t cook, but he commanded the grill at every cookout until flogging it onto some of my brothers-in-law later in life. He was very specific about his grilling technique: hotdogs were always cooked first at a low temperature. Heaven help the poor soul who tried to throw on a hamburger before the hotdogs were done.
After the hotdogs came the hamburgers and sausage patties, a staple at any Italian American cookout. If there was chicken, it was cooked last. My father deplored all manner of condiments, never putting so much as mustard on his hotdog or ketchup on his burger. To this day, I don’t understand his aversion, but he was resolute in his disdain.
I don’t remember ever seeing my mom grill, which is why my foray into grilling after marriage came as such a shock and disappointment. I’d hope to relegate this task to the Curmudgeon, but he held firm even after seeing his brother, in-laws, and buddies take charge of their grills.
He even buys me presents for the grill to underscore that it’s solely my domain. Over the past few years, I’ve received utensils, a long fork with a temperature probe for checking meat, a combination light and fan for the top of the grill and a fancy spinning basket for marinating and roasting vegetables.
I don’t have the heart to tell him that I really don’t like to grill. In fact, it’s one of my least favorite things to do. When I told my sister Patty my hidden feelings about grilling, she was shocked.
“I love to grill,” she said. “It’s more my thing than (her husband’s). I couldn’t believe it. She loves to grill? I don’t get it.
My son’s new love of grilling is a gift during the pandemic, a chance for me to escape cooking the main course every night. I still help out on sides, salad and the marinade, but I’m beginning to realize what I’ve been missing out on all these years.
Having a guy who grills is the best.