Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Sociology And Psychology Of The Backyard Grill

The Sociology And Psychology Of The Backyard Grill

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Epoch Times,

Across America, the backyard grills are out and fired up, along with the rich and complicated culture they unleash. Watching this unfold, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is this feature of the experience more than the culinary results that provides the main attraction to grilling.

I’ll put the most provocative point up front so you don’t have to dig through and find it. The backyard grill allows men a space of control in a society and culture in which such settings have otherwise dwindled to nearly none. Before you get angry and cite a thousand exceptions and qualifications, and I’m sure they are all valid, hear me out.

When I was growing up in Texas, my grandmother did all the cooking and the kitchen was her domain, no question. There was a sense that the men weren’t even allowed in there. I never once saw my grandfather open a cabinet or the refrigerator. His job was to provide the material blessings of the house for his wonderful wife and children to enjoy. And enjoy them they did.

She was a kind and generous cook. As I was very interested in the kitchen goings-on, she took me in as her protege, teaching me baking and so on. I love it but that was unusual. My cousins were never part of that experience.

And yet once a year, around the fourth of July, that house hosted an extended family event in which the barbecue came out. My grandfather donned a chef’s coat and hat, and held high his huge cooking tools. The fire was built and the smoke from the cooking meat, wood, and coals lifted high in the air and drifted to all the neighbors.

Despite all the theater, he was only making burgers and hot dogs but that didn’t stop the waves of adulation he would receive for his fine skills. There was always a round of applause after and he took bows.

As a kid, I wondered at the time how that made my grandmother feel, who cooked 1,000 meals for his one. And yet the embedded ethos of the table in those days was always to praise her mastery at every meal without exception. Looking back, she must have felt great pride that her beloved husband had one day to bask in the warmth of a grateful clan that had been fed by the work of his own hands.

It’s obvious that the sheer physicality of the grilling experience taps into a primordial longing in the human personality in general but it seems particularly appealing to men.

The clinical and anodyne experience of modern kitchens, particularly with electric this and that, does not satisfy that evolved desire to build a real fire and sear meat on it.

It’s there in all of us, just waiting for the right season and setting.

Men are never more in their element than when poking around on a fire in the backyard and hurling large pieces of meat this way and that. It’s beautiful to watch. The experience is undeniably gendered too. Even when I was young, the women would be in the kitchen preparing the rolls and salads, while the men would be in the backyard building the fire for the grill.

The conversations were different too: Men spoke of practical and even gritty things as the women spoke of impractical and idealistic dreams. The men would speak in sharper, less decorous, and blunter ways than they would otherwise talk in mixed company, and the women (I’m told) would be more revealing of thoughts and speculations they would not otherwise share with men present.

To be clear, this separation was not about “power,” as the post-structuralists would have it; it was never about force or exclusion. It was to the advantage of both, each group with its own space, however temporary, so that when the two came to dinner as the meal was served, they could meet on common ground, each group shaving off the gendered eccentricities in deference to the other.

The outdoor grill enables this in ways that cooking indoors simply does not. Consistent with my childhood experience, and probably with experience dating back to prehistoric times, the kitchen space was always the primary domain of the women in the household, probably because in prehistoric times the division of labor meant that men would hunt and women would prepare the food.

But with hunting (mostly) gone and the experience of food acquisition itself now nothing more than a shopping experience, men have lost their usefulness. The outdoor grill offers something of an outlet.

All that aside, the outdoor grill offers a respite from the tedium of kitchen duty and the luxury of restaurants. It’s something we can do ourselves, close to the roots of our species.

If you are reading this as an apartment dweller, you might be feeling a bit of pain right now. For the most part, you cannot grill. There is either no space or your lease does not allow it. Perhaps you can get by with an electric grill on your tiny porch but, honestly, is there any point to that overcooking in the kitchen? Not really. Not much, in my view.

The choice between owning and renting is a financial one but there are practical implications, among which is this one. Your home and backyard enable the grill. Maybe you use it just a few weeks a year or maybe for months but most apartment dwellers never have that option. In other words, people could be paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for the grill, but for many this is entirely worth it.

Again, I long ago concluded that nearly every seeming advantage of outdoor grilling can be recreated with the skilled use of ovens and stoves in the kitchen. Even the smoke flavor has an authentic answer with liquid smoke that can be added to iron skillets and dutch ovens. In any case, the culinary advantages of grilling are not the primary point. The point is to build a real fire and recreate in a safe way the days of yore as a means of working out something deep within us.

The choice of grill itself is a fascinating one. They range from the most primitive to the most elaborate. I recently witnessed two neighbors grilling at the same time. One had a small/medium aluminum circle cut in half with a top and bottom filled with coals and wood, with no controls, switches, dials, hoses, starters, hooks or cabinets or anything else. It was probably $40.

The other neighbor had an apparatus that was likely fancier and with more technological sophistication than existed inside. Its stainless steel exterior gleamed like a fine treasure. It was a marvel and it probably costs up to $4,000 (I’m seeing online prices for these up to $15,000).

But which one does a better job? Which one speaks most to the primal need? I don’t need to give you my answer. It seems obvious to me that the closer you get to the essence of the thing, the better off you are, so I would certainly go for the simple model, with no propane and only the coals. The more technology you add, the less it seems to achieve the goal, unless the main point is a Veblenian one of creating an ostentatious display for others.

There are other advantages to a simple round grill (called a Weber). People can stand around it instead of only in front of it. That provides a better and more adaptable social environment.

There are other options at some public parks, which provide grills for the public to use. Bring your own coals, tools, and meat and you have all you need. Of course that doesn’t quite achieve that sense of having a “cave of one’s own” but it’s something in any case.

The reason we drag all these out at this time of the year is not just that the weather is nice and everything is green and pretty in the United States. It’s also about recalling our past: the Revolutionary War, the Founding era, and generally remembering who we are and what kinds of things we did before all the innovations, good and bad, interrupted our sense of rooted meaning and memory.

The outdoor grill offers the hope that we can find our way back to fundamentals again.


Thu, 07/04/2024 – 11:00

Source: ZeroHedge News

Disclaimer: TruthPuke LLC hereby clarifies that the editors, in numerous instances, are not accountable for the origination of news posts. Furthermore, the expression of opinions within exclusives authored by TruthPuke Editors does not automatically reflect the viewpoints or convictions held by TruthPuke Management.

TruthPukes Take:

  • Even when I was young, the women would be in the kitchen preparing the rolls and salads, while the men would be in the backyard building the fire for the grill.
  • It was to the advantage of both, each group with its own space, however temporary, so that when the two came to dinner as the meal was served, they could meet on common ground, each group shaving off the gendered eccentricities in deference to the other.
  • The fire was built and the smoke from the cooking meat, wood, and coals lifted high in the air and drifted to all the neighbors.
We use cookies to ensure that we provide you with the best experience. If you continue using our website, we will assume that you are happy about that.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Optimized by Optimole