Danville Express

Column - June 22, 2007

Diablo Views: 'Chillen und grillen'

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Summer at last. Time to break out the barbecue. Actually this is an outdated concept. With gas grills and California weather, we slip out to the patio year round to barbecue. OK, perhaps "we" do not slip out; it's my husband Jim who braves the cold winter nights to fire up the grill while I stay inside the warm house and yell, "Close the door!" He comes back inside while the grills heat up, then goes out again to do the cooking, while I watch through the kitchen window. Although I am not idle, I prepare the rest of the meal.

But summertime is synonymous with barbequing because the beautiful weather makes us want to be outside. In the summertime, we can eat the barbecued meal on the patio, enjoying the birds, and watching the sunset. We can sit and visit as night falls and tell each other that this perfect weather and lack of bugs and humidity is why we pay so much for our houses.

It certainly is more pleasant in the summertime to gather round the grill as the chef does his work rather than to view the bundled up barbecuer through the windows. Unless we're having a heat wave and it's 90 degrees or more outside. Then there is no gathering round the grill - everyone keeps their distance as the poor cook sweats over the hot flames, poking the meat and waving away the smoke.

What are the special smells of summer? Chlorine, jasmine, fresh-cut lawns, skunks on summer evenings, and barbecues from the neighboring yards - or from restaurants. Year-round, Alamo Plaza is home to the heavenly aromas from the Lawrence Meats barbecue grill turning out hamburgers, hotdogs and grilled pork on buns. I often succumb to this siren smell although my idea of outdoor dining is not usually sitting at the edge of a parking lot.

My son who lives in Berlin holds barbecues on the patio of his seventh-story flat in the summertime; given the severity of those winters, he really must wait for the nice weather before it is possible to hold an outdoor party. He said barbecuing is huge all over Germany, probably more so than in the rest of Europe. It is still associated with Americans, which is why he, as the American in his crowd, hosts the barbecue. The Germans call it "chillen und grillen" and chillen is just what it sounds like, from the English slang word "chillin'." He said outdoor grilling is especially popular with the large Turkish population in Berlin, and in the summertime the parks are jammed with Turkish families tending to their grills.

Back in America, there is also that popular autumn barbecuing in parking lots before football games, known as tailgating. I've only tailgated once. A few years ago when someone gave our friends Ken and Maria four 49er tickets at the last minute, we threw together something to barbecue, jumped in the car and headed for Candlestick.

By the time we arrived, we knew we didn't have time to prepare our barbecue. Maria and I saw a solution - every other tailgater had perfectly good, red-hot coals although they'd already cooked and consumed their meals. No, our husbands said, you can't ask someone else for their coals. Oh, yes, we could. We put on our sweetest smiles, approached the closest friendly looking guys and explained our dilemma. Why, they even carried their grill over to our car for us and headed off to the stadium. We enjoyed our tailgate feast, returned the grill, and went in to enjoy the 49er win (this was a few years ago).

I don't know why barbecuing is considered the "man's job" but this seems to be the case. My brother-in-law even barbecues the Christmas turkey. Maybe this is traditionally so "the woman" can stay in the kitchen doing all the prep and cleanup. Maybe it's because guys enjoy it, playing with fire and all. Which is fine by me. The few times I have tried my hand at barbecuing, I didn't do so well, I must admit. Whereas Jim turns out meal after meal of fish, steaks, tri-tips and kabobs done to perfection - all year round.

-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.


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