This Shallow Thought Wednesday, a beautiful and poetic ode to the pleasures of Memorial Day and summer, may be one of the finest pieces guest poster John Lindner has ever written for us. The photo not so much. EL
Some men barbecue. Others grill.
The wizards, philosophers, theologians, alchemists and related mad scientists of barbecue (of which there are about eight distinct spellings, all correct as far as I can tell) know things. They are shamans of not just heat, but of the quality of heat. To them, the fuel that feeds the flames over which they cook is an indispensible ingredient, a seasoning rudimentary and reliable as salt. They have evolved intricate psychological profiles of those who were raised in dry rub families versus those whose forebears apply “sauce.” They hold contests.
Grillers paint with broader strokes. The pinnacle of their art is demonstrated in performing, simultaneous, the feats of flipping a burger and taking a good long pull from a beer. Over the course of summer, their arms lack hair from knuckles to elbows. ...
I’m a griller. Until just last week, I’d always been a charcoal man. Recently having received a new grill, I’m now all about propane. True, LPG lacks the the challenge of charcoal, but it is extremely explosive
. So, that’s a plus. More importantly, in this age of instant gratification and gratuitous instafication, propane eliminates the monastic patience charcoal demands of its adherents. With charcoal, one can cook only when the briquettes are glowing. Propane, on the other hand, is born ready. Fire away.
The barbecuist’s ultimate canvas is the rack of ribs, a foodstuff defiantly comprised of 75 percent bone accented treacherously by gristle. When a tight-rope walker falls, he, mercifully, dies. When a rib barbecuist stumbles, he may live -- scorned, repudiated, snickered at -- for decades amid the ashes of his reputation.
Grillers are appreciated merely for showing up.
No, there is no comparison between barbecuist and griller. The one’s a scholar, the other a tool. Yet as much as I aspire to culinary distinction, I laugh at the pains taken by the bbq aesthetes. Because, though I lack the precious refinement of the their arts, I, skillless and impatient, can grill something as good or better than ribs: bratwurst.
All the correct ingredients distilled from centuries of careful testing are packed into each weiner. No muss, no fuss. And bratwurst grilled is as good or better than other meats bewitched by all the power of the barbecuist’s arts. Burn the brat? So much the better. The carbon adds depth to the kraut. They’re easier to eat than ribs and they are, ideally, bone free.
Today is the gateway to summer. Tomorrow is preparation for the swan song of a Labor Day blowout. Bratwurst, packed with everything a fool needs to succeed, is forever.
This Memorial Day, I wish you cookouts, and picnics, and Usingers.