Kitchen Chemistry: Taking it Outside

Hi All! Adam is  back today to discuss one of our favorite summertime activities...

To me, outdoor cooking occupies a special, enigmatic place in the world of cuisine. It's a cultural experience. It can localize family and friends and attract strangers, even to the point where a community congregates with cult-like fascination to watch flame and smoke yield up their charred offerings.

Barbecuing is quite a phenomenon. It's easy to do well, yet difficult to do perfectly. It's often the domain of those normally uninterested in the culinary arts (read: men), and is performed under close scrutiny by those with lesser experience than the "grill master" holding the tongs ("so, you think those are ready to turn, huh?").

As Elizabeth's Dad advises, "fire on bottom, meat on top."

I find myself drawn to everything about grilling: the preparation of food and fire, the execution, and of course the delicious aftermath.

Elizabeth and I have no grill of our own, so this process becomes even more of an adventure. The nearest grills are located at Live Oak Park several blocks away. Our weekend mornings are often spent shopping, trimming, marinating, and packing supplies at home before setting off into the Berkeley wilderness. Luckily the park people are usually roasting and smoking (this or that) themselves, so we fit right in. Lighting our fire, cleaning the grill, and cooking our food takes more watching than doing, so plenty of time is left over for true weekend leisure: Elizabeth makes friends with random animals and takes pictures, we talk and drink beer (technically illegal, shhhh).

We typically make full use of our coals, grilling several flank steaks (cheap) or batches of frozen chicken until the coals run low. In this way we keep the afternoon economical as well as luxurious.

The grill lies at the intersection of public and private space. The park provides elements of nature, yet at the same time is the epitome of hearth and home. The method itself is ancient and universal, yet also urgent and personal. The eventual dish is unfailingly classic and also unique to the time, place, and person executing it. The experience is raw, archaic, and crude, yet as rich and rewarding as any other in the culinary world.

1 Have Spoken.:

Aoife.Troxel said...

Hey, I love barbecues. They are so primitive ;)