Thursday, May 22, 2008

Confessions of a Newly Suburbanite Griller

West Philly was the original suburban development of Philadelphia, its gigantic Queen Anne-Victorian manses hurriedly thrown up by mid-nineteenth-century developers, proto Toll Brothers mowing down the landscape offering city dwellers the promise of rural peace and lots of square footage.

West Philly doesn't feel so suburban today, but we still have front porches and back yards. Our apartment is on the ground floor of a garish blue-and-pink late Victorian, and includes a large back porch that opens up into a little backyard. It's a lovely porch, and came complete with a hammock, a boarded-up jacuzzi, and our landlord's gigantic grilling machine.

This isn't it, but it looks a lot like this one. I guess technically it's a "smoker" or something? Anyways, it's ours to use, if I remotely knew what I'm doing. Now that spring is here I have cooked two meals on it, both successful thanks to the careful following of recipes and online grilling guides. The first meal was a big chunk of beef (pre-seasoned, sue me) from Trader's Joe, paired with asparagus we bought that afternoon at the Clark Park farmer's market, and which had been picked on a Mennonite farm the day prior. That was good.

This was the first picture I got when searching Flickr for "men cooking." Incidentally, there is actually an entire Flickr community called "Special Men Who Cook For You." ("Pic's [sic] of nude men which displays [sic] good taste/artistic is [sic] more than welcome. ") Whatevs, but when I went to Target to buy some implements for grilling, I was shocked by the size of grilling utensils. They are huge! The tongs looked like they were designed for picking up small poodles, the spatulas like you could use them as a diving board. Why is that? You know, the grill gets hot, but not so hot that you really have to stand ten feet away from it and prod your meat from a distance. I can barely fit my poking fork into our not-so-small grill. The answer probably has to do with phallic anxieties, but that seems so...obvious.

Anyways, I bought the smallest pair of tongs I could find, and tonight managed to make some hamburgers on the beast. I have to admit, I don't quite feel some primal masculine urge to roast meat over fire. I definitely enjoy cooking outside; it's lovely to be on our back deck with a Yuengling and a warm breeze. But I miss the proper gas burners of our kitchen, and the easy access to cupboards and a variety of pots and pans. It's not that I am a very good cook, but it seems actually a little wimpy to me, to use a grill. It's like, if you're not actually going to collect kindling out in the woods and make a campfire and cook over it with MSR pans, you might as well cook like a normal human being in the kitchen. A Weber on a back deck is a measly little simulacrum for the actual meat-over-flame cro-magnon experience, and no gigantic spatula is going to cure that.


cpo said...

IN LA, grilling was all about NOT using the stove inside our already oven-like apartment. Plus, we made mainly burgers, brats, and bulgogi, all of which are better with charcoal.

But, I agree... kitchens are better until you upgrade to a true suburban monstrosity... the outdoor kitchen.

PMG said...

That's a good point--in another month or so, Mabel and I are probably going to be permanently living on our back porch.