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Is that the smell of barbecue in the air? It must be spring!

The Jacksons from the May 10, 2018 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator

cartoon image of a family seated at a table

“Now that’s what I call a barbecue!” Randy Jackson gazed in awe at the gleaming stainless steel contraption taking centre stage on the backyard deck of his parents’ house. “You could roast a whole hog on that thing!”

“I could indeed,” said Andrew, “if it was a small enough hog. Although truthfully, the rotisserie is designed more for chicken.” He lifted the lid of the barbecue to reveal a grill loaded with sizzling steaks, sausages and foil-wrapped potatoes, and a warming rack covered with portobello mushrooms. “I put this whole thing together myself,” he added proudly, “and I am proud to say, I did not read the instructions.”

“Impressive!” said Randy. “That must be why the warming rack is upside down.”

“Yup,” said Andrew. “But it works just fine this way.”

“I can see that.” Randy nodded approvingly. “I applaud your self-reliance. If you ever find yourself lost in the wilderness with nothing except a disassembled 60,000-BTU barbecue and no assembly instructions, you’ll be just fine.”

“That is exactly the kind of thing that would happen to me too,” said Andrew.

“Where is this state-of-the-art barbecue I’ve been hearing so much about?” Randy’s sister Jennifer appeared at the patio door, sliding the screen aside and stepping out onto the deck. Andrew stepped back and struck a model’s pose beside the slightly smoking apparatus. Jennifer stared at it for a moment.

“It’s just a barbecue,” she said, and went back inside.

Randy shook his head. “Unbelievable,” he said. “No appreciation at all.”

“Ah but let’s be honest,” said Andrew. “It IS just a barbecue… a barbecue with a premium rotisserie kit included, 1,000-square-inch total cooking space including two porcelain-coated warming racks, 500-square-inch primary cook box, 250-square-inch secondary cook box, solid nine-millimetre stainless steel cooking grids, heavy-duty cast iron secondary cooking grids, six stainless steel dual-tube burners, stainless steel Flav-R-Wave cooking system, linear-flow valves with 180° sensi-touch control, Sure-lite electronic ignition system, two Deluxe Accu-Temp thermometers and a complimentary apron that says “My barbecue could barbecue your barbecue.”

“Wow,” said Randy. “I can’t believe you memorized the specs.”

“I researched barbecues all winter,” said Andrew. “I could tell you things about barbecues that would make your head spin like a Nutrichef Rotating Kebob Cooker.”

The patio screen slid open again and this time Randy’s brother Brady stepped onto the patio with Randy’s children, Allison and Andy following behind. Allison darted across the deck and leaped up into her grandfather’s arms.

“Hi Grandpa!” she said. “Can I play too?”

“Hi darling,” said Andrew. “We can play later, but right now I’m cooking dinner.”

“Oh.” Allison slid back down to the deck. “Grandma said you were playing with your new toy.”

Randy rolled his eyes. “No appreciation,” he said again.

Brady surveyed the barbecue appreciatively. “Very nice,” he said. “That’ll cook a cow in a hurry.”

Andrew lifted the lid and began flipping the steaks on the grill. “BTUs to burn,” he said.

Brady sat down in one of the Adirondack chairs while the kids headed off towards the sandbox. “Almost feels like summer,” he said, tilting his head back to take in the sunshine. Randy sat down in the chair next to Brady’s.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said.

Andrew finished flipping the steaks and closed the barbecue lid. “Better late than never,” he said.

“True enough,” said Brady.

“First family barbecue of the year usually happens a couple of weeks earlier than this for sure,” said Andrew. He looked up at the sky. “We sure could use some rain though,” he added.

Rose appeared at the closed screen. “How much longer for the steaks?” she said through the screen.

“Two minutes,” said Andrew.

“Table’s all set,” said Rose and disappeared back into the house.

“How’d you prepare the steaks?” asked Brady. “Montreal steak spice?”

“Heck no,” said Andrew. “These steaks were marinated overnight in the 1945 edition of the Big Boy Barbecue Book’s best-ever marinade. Seventeen separate ingredients. Fantastic.”

“Jackie has a marinade recipe that only has sixteen ingredients,” said Randy. “It’s pretty good but it always seems to me like it’s missing something.”

“Probably the lemon juice,” said Andrew. “Or the nutmeg.” He lifted the barbecue lid and surveyed the steaks and sausages for a moment. “Hand me that tray Randy,” he said, gesturing toward the table a few feet to his right. “Call the kids Brady,” he said. He turned off the burners and began piling steaks onto the tray. “All right,” he said. “In we go.” Randy slid the patio screen aside and they all trooped into the house.

A moment later a blue jay flitted across the backyard, its reflection flashing across the shiny stainless steel of the barbecue lid, but there was no one left to see it.

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