Several months ago, my good friends Joe and Noori in Colorado invited my family and I to their home for a BBQ. Joe is a real renaissance man ~ slim, trim, athletic… a doctor, music lover and extremely talented artist. He also does up a killer BBQ salmon.
With the exception of Joe, it seems most men I know have this real “thing” to prove when BBQ time comes around. As if their man-hood will be judged on their ability to ignite fire and grill meat.
Unlike most of these men I know who regress to the mental degree of their Neanderthal ancestors at BBQ time ~ grunting and scratching with abundant testosterone and pride as they light their BBQs to grill horrendous amounts of animal flesh ~ I must admit, I am a sad excuse for a BBQ Husband. Every time I try to get the BBQ started I waste hours of time and poetic profanity in the process…once I even singed my beard…it all happened so fast…I am still not sure if it was the BBQ or lightening from above striking me in response to my cusses of frustration.
For some reason I prefer a charcoal BBQ to a gas or electric one…perhaps because, as a young boy, my father did the same. Now I know – charcoal releases pollutants and causes more environmental damage than gas or electric BBQs, BUT in a country with as much load shedding as Pakistan, until we get our solar energy source sorted out (which I will keep you updated on as time goes by), charcoal is the best/only option we have right now for a BBQ. But try as I may, I have trouble getting those blasted coals to ignite and don’t like the idea of dousing them with chemicals before hand. (Incidently, Real charcoal also comes from wood, which is a renewable resource, unlike gas. Additionally, some say that using an electric BBQ without solar or wind energy is actually worse for the environment due to the amount of fuel emissions used to produce electricity. In the end, we try our best and keep aiming for better.)
Joe to the rescue. Within about 20 minutes Joe’s coals were grey and ready for the salmon stakes. Since Joe is a rare breed of communicative male, open to discussion and the sharing of his BBQ secrets without the pride of an inner cave man getting in the way ~ when I asked what he had done to help his BBQ coals ignite, he happily showed me a contraption he had purchased at a hardware store, specifically designed for lighting coals.
Home Depot sells one here for about $15.00 US.
My family and I later returned to our home in Pakistan and decided to get out the BBQ for a cook up. I had not purchased a charcoal starter from the US to lug home with me all the way back to Pakistan in my suitcase, instead I spent about 20 minutes making my own out of an old 2.5 liter vegetable oil tin. Those cans come in really hand for tons of stuff…but more on that in future posts.
I simply removed the top with a can opener, then used a sharp can-press to punch several holes around the sides, near the closed base of the can.
As with Joe’s store bought contraption, I placed several pieces of crumpled paper from our home recycling bin into the can, then I put in the charcoal bricks until they filled to the brim. On top, I placed the lid I had cut off (which conveniently had its own little handle). Lighting the paper on fire with a match through several of the bottom holes, I then set the can down on the concrete with nothing flammable nearby and waited 30 minutes.
Dumping the coals into the BBQ they were greying, and with a little fanning flames sprang up to lick the grill. It all happened so efficiently that did not even have time to finish cutting up the veggies we wanted to cook. (Nor did my neighbours have to endure my rants and recitations from various Cheech and Chong films as I prepared the coals.)
I’ve used my vegetable can a few times now and it has worked well each time.
I’m so proud of myself that, like Jekyll to Hyde, I can almost feel it as I transform into a fire-crazed Neanderthal man at BBQ time…ready to char whatever I can before the embers cool into ash.
Now if I could only learn how to cook over a proper stove……