BACK TALK: THE PERFECT BARBECUE

Dylan & Dave

Dylan & Dave

“Extra, extra,” is not only a meaningful newspaper term, but it also applies to hosting The Perfect Barbecue.

“Extra, extra,” I’d hear Dad say whenever I rolled the ole’ barbecue thingy out of the garage. Now I should tell you right up front, Dylan, while this term stands out when there’s just two of you at the barbecue, say a hungry husband and watchful wife who can count, how it can get lost in its meaning at a family gathering.

“Why three steaks, there’s just the two of us?” my wife used to ask early in our marriage. (She no longer asks.)

“Extra, extra,” I’d respond matter-of-factly, with no sense of gluttonous guilt whatsoever.

Just last week my wife and I — alone and by ourselves — enjoyed The Perfect Barbecue.

The week before, we did the same.

Last winter, during a picturesque, Rockwellian-like snowfall, we had The Perfect Barbecue on our deck that faces the river. I suspect this weekend, rain or shine, we’ll enjoy another. To find yourself standing down wind of the barbecue smoke is almost as good as finally sinking your teeth into the burger, hot dog, chicken, steak, or whatever else you might be grilling.

All the time, if you’re the one holding the tongs, if you’re the one sprinkling on the lemon pepper and other spices, the rule of “extra, extra” comes into play. “Extra, extra” is intended for you and you alone — the cook — and no one else. And it’s the “extra, extra,” that makes for The Perfect Barbecue.

Dad taught me that.

So to answer my wife’s question, “why three steaks if there’s just the two of us,” I again and for one last time remind her, quite simply, “extra, extra.”

“The cook — that’s me — has to testtaste anything and everything that’s put on the grill,” I say. “So, rather than mutilate your tender, juicy steak — I’m sure as heck not going to cut into mine — I’ll cook an ‘extra’ steak that I can cut up and testtaste. It’s a wise rule that worked for my Dad, and it’s worked for me for the past 30 years. I mean, just look at my beach ball of a waistline. Pretty, huh?”

Yep, three steaks go on the grill, two come off. The third? Part of it goes into my tummy “rare,” part of it goes into my tummy “medium rare” and a few nibbles go into my tummy “well done.”

With that “extra” steak done and gone, I then carefully use my tongs in carnival claw machine-like fashion and I delicately pick up my steak-to-order, and I drop it onto my plate. The prize has been captured. Again.

“Man, I’m hungry,” I say to my wife. She looks at me, shakes her head and suggests her steak is “overcooked, just a bit.”

To which I reply, “well, if you don’t want it, I’ll take it, right after I finish mine.”

“Extra, extra, sweetie pie, extra extra.”

And, in the end, Dylan, The Perfect Barbecue is a bit like Christmas. As good as the last one was, the best one will always be the next one. As long as you keep “extra, extra,” in mind and tummy.

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Posted by David L. Barber

David L. Barber is the retired editor of the Manistee News Advocate. He contributes columns weekly for the News Advocate. You can contact him at dlbarber1006@gmail.com.

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