Rob Millar is my hero.
He writes our Barbe-Yukon column which means, of course, he is an expert barbecuer. Right there, that makes him more of a man than I.
If he and I were dropped into the middle of the forest and surrounded by AK-47-toting terrorists, I would draw on my army reserve training to place trenches around the site, assign arcs of fire, position listening posts and lay razor wire.
But Rob would be able to McGyver up a fire pit, catch a rabbit with his teeth and harvest nearby plants and roots to season it just right.
The enemy would drag their AK-47s as they wandered toward our defensive position in a dreamy state to “see what’s on the ‘Q'”.
I have the wherewithal to keep them at a safe distance … but Rob has the magical ability to win their hearts and minds.
I’m Bush, Rob is Obama.
The barbecue is one of two places that a man really wants to excel at. The other place is under the hood of a truck (what other place did you think it would be?).
Anyway, when a man enters a deck with a barbecue already in action – in the Yukon, often found on a painstakingly shovelled deck, surrounded by snow – he just has to go over and lift the lid.
When I was an untrained lout in the barbecuing arts (last year, just before Rob joined our What’s Up family), I would strut over to the barbecue, lift the lid and then say something witty: “Low heat, eh?”
It worked every time. You see, I did know enough to realize that all of the best barbecuing is done over low heat. The barbecuer-in-chief would pump out his chest and then wax poetic over how thorough this process is and how much more flavouring will infuse the meat.
All I had to do was agree with everything he said and I came out looking like a manly genius.
Same thing works for truck engines. Except I had to change my opening line, “Is that a four-barrel?”, when I realized that fuel-injected vehicles don’t have carburetors. Now I say, “You keep this tight, don’t you?” I don’t know what that means, but they seem to, and I just need to nod my head for the next 45 minutes and, mission accomplished.
Two weeks ago, Rob quoted comedienne Rita Rudner: “Men will cook if danger is involved.”
That – right there – that is what is so appealing about the barbecue. Cooking over an open fire is primeval. I think that explains why we men always have a spatula or tongs in our hands when we barbecue … a part of our undeveloped brain is still wary of sabre-toothed tigers pouncing on us.
And if you don’t think barbecuing is dangerous, then I suggest you try throwing chicken on high heat. You need the high heat at first to sear in the moisture, but the fat drips into the pan and erupts into flames.
I never felt so macho as when I thrust my oven-mitted hand into the wall of flame to turn the chicken thighs over.
The last remaining hairs on my head – that until now had technically qualified me as “not bald” – were singed to the point they crumbled upon touch. So, I carefully brought the chicken to the table, wearing those singed hairs and sickening red nose and forehead as badges of honour.
As Daisy leapt from her chair to get the aloe vera, our guest, Jerome, acknowledged his respect for me with a barely perceptible nod.
The force that we call fire – the same force that topples the mightiest of oaks, powers the heaviest locomotive, gives steel its strength, warms the tallest skyscrapers and scares Frankenstein’s Monster – was brought under my control on my deck and I used it to sustain my family and friends with the burned carcass of a chicken.