A good barbecue - good food, good times, and about the closest thing we get to cookin' round a campfire these days, the hottest, driest July on record with a fire ban to match.
With, or even without, the Canadian National bar-b championships in Whistler this week, a barbecue is a summer cause célèbre , even in its simplest form of throwing a few wienies or patties on the grill.
Everybody has a good barbecue story. Some of my more printable ones are from my family.
My dad, always the joker, the trickster, the life of the party, especially after a few rounds, was famous in certain circles for climbing a pine tree during one particularly playful outing. Part way up he fell, right into the (hot) barbecue.
Yes, his pride, his rump and dinner were all hurt. (Sorry, dad, but you have to admit, it was pretty funny.)
In Edmonton, where I grew up, barbecues in the '60s were a sign of... something, I'm not sure what. Having arrived in the suburbs of suburban Edmonton?
Having a barbecue meant you were moderne , cool, a somebody with a house, a shiny car, and a barbecue.
Barbecues were a symbol of suburbia itself, meaning you weren't cramped with your hubby or wife in a three-bedroom walk-up with three or four kids and no chance of doing anything remotely barbecue-ish because you didn't even have a balcony to put a barbecue on. Barbecuing was picnicking elevated.
Everybody in the 'burbs in the '60s had a bar-b, usually one of those round little black-metal-pan affairs on three legs, two with wheels, and the crank on the side to raise and lower the metal rack, which was usually crooked because of the piddly axel or warped because the metal couldn't stand up to the heat of a dozen stinky briquettes soaked in "starter fluid".
But ours, oh, our barbecue was something to behold.
I'm not sure where my dad got the idea from, but he decided to build a big impressive brick barbecue with a curved front to match our kidney-shaped patio, which riffed on the then-cachet of kidney-shaped swimming pools.
I think the old metal bar-b drove him nuts more than once, the rack teetering dangerously, as it tended to do, with all the expensive, important meat on top.
My grandpa helped him build it, this iconic structure that seemed to be the envy of every beer-soaked barbecuing dad in the neighbourhood, who'd stand around the charred drumsticks and press down on the sides of the grill and exclaim how amazingly solid (and straight) it was.