Love, and the secret to good barbeque

The Jacksons: From the July 30 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator

cartoon image of a family seated at a table

There is nothing better than the smell of charred meat!” Brady Jackson sat down in a chair downwind from the barbecue and inhaled deeply. His wife Amanda sat down next to him.

“That does smell amazing,” she agreed.

“It’s all in the coals,” said Andrew, who was standing over the barbecue, holding a stopwatch. “Hickory-infused briquettes. And no lighter fluid. Build a small wood fire, throw the briquettes on top and wait 20 minutes till they’re white all over, and you’re all set. Perfection is not easy to achieve.”

“Wow,” said Amanda. “I had no idea you were such a purist.”

Andrew placed a hand lovingly on the handle of the barbecue lid. “This is real beef,” he said, from grass-fed purebred Hereford cattle. No steroids or hormones or antibiotics. This is how God made steers.”

“Except of course,” said Brady, “that God didn’t make steers. He only made cows and bulls, if my understanding is correct.”

“Whatever,” said Andrew. “If He had made steers, these are the ones He would have made. And I would consider it disrespectful at best, and sacrilegious at worst to profane such a steak by cooking the dang thing with a propane torch.”

“Amen,” said Amanda. “You’re like the Billy Graham of barbecuing steaks.”

“Billy Graham would be a lowly disciple,” said Brady.

“That’s high praise indeed,” said Andrew. He glanced at his stopwatch, opened the barbecue lid and quickly flipped two of the sizzling steaks inside before closing the lid again.

“Why only two?” asked Amanda. “Why didn’t you flip them all?”

Andrew looked at her querulously. “You like your steak rare?” he said.

“I’m a vegetarian,” said Amanda.

“So you are,” said Andrew. “And here I have been boring you with my steak barbecuing secrets. I apologize for my insensitivity. We are simple country folk so vegetarianism is a foreign concept to us, and not one we easily understand.”

Amanda laughed. “Get out,” she said. “I’m not a Buddhist. I just don’t eat meat. What’s to understand?”

“Darling,” said Brady, “never underestimate how simple my father actually is.”

“Yes, don’t,” said Andrew, opening the lid and flipping the other two steaks then tossing the mushrooms onto the grill as well. “Barbecuing is as complicated as I get.”

The back door of the house opened at that moment and Rose Jackson stepped into the backyard, carrying a bowl of tinfoil-wrapped potatoes in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. “Hi kids,” she said. “What’s up?”

“Hi Mom,” said Brady. “Dad has been sharing his steak-barbecuing secrets with us.”

Rose set the potatoes down and seated herself on the Adirondack chair close by. “Oh,” she said. “I can hardly contain my excitement.”

Brady laughed out loud. “Mom is not impressed,” he said to Amanda.

“Oh no,” said Rose, “I am totally impressed. I could never learn to barbecue a steak. Now chicken Kiev, that I can do, with rosemary roasted potatoes and fresh, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, covered with a smooth three-cheese sauce, and freshly baked bread on the side. But throwing a slab of meat on a grill and burning it to a crisp? Only a man can do that.”

“And I do it without complaining,” said Andrew.

“That’s true,” said Rose. “Although that has more to do with your instinct for self-preservation than your instinct for self-sacrifice.”

Andrew lifted the barbecue lid and removed two of the steaks, placing them on plates waiting on the table. “One more minute,” he said, “and it will all be ready.”

“To the table,” said Rose, “and get your plates ready. Grab a seat and a potato and a cob of corn.”

There was a flurry of activity as all four of them did as she suggested. Finally, Andrew retrieved the remaining items from the barbecue and put them on their respective plates. He lifted his bottle of beer.

“Bon appetit,” he said.

Brady raised his own bottle. “Salute,” he said.

Amanda raised her wine glass. “Nostrovia,” she said.

“Pass the butter,” said Rose.

There was a moment of silence as they passed the butter around and sprinkled salt on the steaming cobs of corn on their plates. Rose was the first to pick up her steak knife. She carefully sliced off a juicy morsel and lifted it to her mouth. She chewed for a long time and then swallowed.

“Andrew?” she said.

“Yes darling?”

“You must never leave me,” she said.

“It’s that good?” said Brady.

“That good,” said Rose.

“Here’s to true love,” said Andrew, “based on a solid foundation of well-cooked red meat.”

Rose lifted her glass. “I’ll drink to that,” she said. “To love,” she said, “as rare as a perfectly cooked steak.”

“Amen,” said Brady.

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