Vintage illustration suburban barbecue 1948

The Manly Art of Outdoor Cookery

According to chef Bobby Flay and author Daniel Duane, the kitchen is fast  becoming the new man cave.

However back in the prehistoric days of mid-century America, the kitchen was firmly Moms territory, the great outdoors Dads, and the lines were firmly drawn

A Gordon’s gin and tonic in one hand, flipping burgers and franks in the other, brought out the cave-man in my Dad who was as content as Fred Flintstone tossing a tyrannosaurus burger on his prehistoric Weber.

A tradition as ancient as cave men  gathered round the fire or cowboys cooking their grub round the old campfire, there was something that spoke to the innate rugged outdoors-man in every red-blooded American man.

Even in our small suburban parcel of land- there was a feeling of adventure especially for a man brought up in an apartment in Astoria Queens.

Sloppin’ a hunk of meat on the grill was about as he man as you could get in the suburbs.

vintage book on Barbecueing and cartoon character Barney from Flinstones

Big Boys

Strategically wielding the Big Boy barbecue tongs, my father was ready for any barbecue maneuver.

A king size cigarette dangling from his lips, barbecue apron round his regulation plaid Bermuda shorts, his smart masculine styling rated a fashion 21 gun salute.

With its “Big Daddy” type splashed in lurid colors, distinguishing him as commander-in-chief, his grease splattered barbecue apron featured busty beauties brandishing burgers, and a crude drawing of a dachshund devouring a hot dog.

Fuels Rush In

From the days of cave men, men have been fascinated with the pulse quickening quick pulse excitement of making fires.

With the precision used to plan a WWII  bombing mission in the south pacific, Dad calculated the wind velocity, temperature and cloud coverage when making the perfect fire, skills learned as a meteorologist in the Army Air Corp while serving in New Guinea .

vintage illlustration 1950s men at suburban barbecue

Watching my Dad work the Weber, my brother and I were terrified at the sight of the roaring flames, which came perilously close to our wood-shingled house.

After a healthy dose of lighter fluid was squirted on the briquettes- the amalgam of Benzene and butane added flavor magic to a sizzling burger- it ignited in a sudden fireball burst of heat.

Cringing at the blinding flashes of fire, rising to the sky, the smoke billowing into a pyramid-shaped cloud in the sky, we gaped at its brilliance, choked at its smoke and shuddered at its burning roar.

Burger King

Vintage illustration suburban barbecue man in chefs hat

Noisily spitting and crackling as if in protest, the humble hot dogs on the barbecue begrudgingly  ceded space on the grill  to the prima donna arrivistes, the curvaceous patty’s who made their debut like Vegas showgirls erupting in a dramatic pyrotechnic display of fire.

Not only did Dad have a way with wieners, he was also the burger king!

His were not the wimpy buy-em -by-the sackful-square- cut-steamed- beneath- a blanket of onions twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepickles-onionsonasesameseedbun burgers.

Those golden arches, the stuff of California dreamin’,  had yet to embark on their scorched earth campaign across the country- Old McDonald’s didn’t even have a stand on Long Island.

No, Dads burgers were Marlboro Man marvels, king size red white and blue burgers, unwieldy mounds of ground fatty chuck, cooked like a cowboy round the open campfire, tamed with a spatula then left to sizzle in peace.

As the billowing smoke burned his lungs, Dads sun-ruddy face gleamed with perspiration as he drained his gin and tonic with great gusto.

It’s how the west was won.

Copyright (©) 20012 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved -Excerpt From Defrosting The Cold War:Fallout From My Nuclear family

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