Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bring on the Backyard Barbecues

Yabba dabba barbecue!

We’re still a month away but I’ve got summer fever. And with warmer weather comes barbecues. Beginning in late May and extending through early September (longer in more temperate regions), almost everyone hosts or attends a barbecue. Granted, some are more fun than others or offer more variety in their activities, but your typical, apolitically oriented cookout generally consists of family, friends and close coworkers.
               It’s typically held on someone’s backyard deck, but often can be found in such exotic places as a city park or crowded beach. Holidays are the best times to throw barbecues. Ordinary weekends also work, but for the proper festive mood, there’s nothing like grilling on Independence Day, Labor Day and Memorial Day. Since it’s ingrained in the American mind that barbecues should be held on these occasions, you’re virtually guaranteed a decent turnout on these days.
               Why are barbecues held in the first place? Barbecues have always been interesting social occasions filled with food that many times tastes good, conversations of varying qualities and activities that are often competitive in nature (think touch football, dominoes or bid whist). Since I tend to be a bit on the analytical side, cookouts to me are more than just another get-together. I don’t accept the participant simple claim, “I just wanna have a good time.”
Let's get fired up!
               A closer look at the interactions at the barbecue reveals clues as to their real purpose for people attending. It is a time when modern human beings can reach back mentally and to some degree, physically, to relive their ancestral existence. To me, this link is vital for humanity, which has achieved much technology, but emotionally is still attached to the time just after dinosaurs ruled the Earth and people’s last names really were Flintstone and Rubble.
               Since the dawn of civilization, we humans have used the campfire as a focal point in our existence.  As we have progressed (well, some believe we’ve progressed), the open campfire was replaced by an in-door fireplace, which in turn became a vacuum-tube radio and has since evolved into present day HDTVs. The similarities among these tools are glaringly apparent: they all provide a measure of light and therefore, safety. Plus they are social centers where food is consumed and stories are told. Except in most cases these days, the stories are delivered to our homes on a screen, rather than we telling our own among ourselves. But that’s another column.
Finger lickin' good (but without the chicken)
               Of course, there were different dynamics in play when the open campfire was the centerpiece.  That is exactly why civilization continues to be drawn back to its roots each spring. Now I admit that long conclusions may be drawn between prehistoric lifestyle and modern-day barbecues, but let’s examine the validity of my claim “scientifically.” Take for example the central focus of all cookouts: the meat.
               Now unless you’re attending a barbecue held by members of the Holistic Vegetarian Council, you will have meat on hand – and in abundance. Eons ago, our Cro-Magnon forbearers tangled with saber-tooth tigers and big woolly mammoths to bring home the bacon for the family (usually consisting of several clans). A modern barbecue differs only in how we obtain the meat. But the focus is the same: the meat.
               This process of reverting (in a civilized manner) to prehistoric ties is refreshing, cleanses the soul and satisfies the typical urban man and woman who constantly requires prospective to maintain a balanced life. I find the psychological effect of a barbecue is healthy, the social interaction positive and the nutritional value acceptable. And besides, I just wanna have a good time.

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