August 2007

To Gas or Charcoal?

Author: Keith Kelson

Two Grills. One Hot Competition

Let’s face facts: Men are very competitive. Most men can turn any friendly game or sack race into a blood feud in a matter of minutes. So, when I ran into a childhood nemesis of mine in the grill section of Home Depot and he started going on and on talking about how superior his fancy gas grill was, the gauntlet was thrown. Sure, we’re grown men now, both forty years old, but childhood battles on the playground and lunch room debates were fresh in our minds.

We were destined to be rivals. He liked Ginger; I preferred Mary Ann. He liked Roger Staubach; I rooted for Terry Bradshaw and the Steelers. He liked New Coke; I preferred Classic. So, it comes as no surprise that he would prefer gas to charcoal. Now, you can’t call it barbecue if you use a gas grill, and any man who owns and swears by a gas grill is really depriving his family.

Charcoal requires the touch of an artist—you have to earn your stripes, and there aren’t any shortcuts. Gas? Well, it’s like painting by number. It may look pretty, but is it art?

Since we couldn’t settle our debate in the store, we decided to have a barbecue battle. A grill off. A throw down in the Lowcountry. Once and for all the matter would be settled and a champion crowned.

Rules and parameters were established, and a championship belt was purchased that the winner would wear. We settled on a two out of three format, with each party hosting one home game. A tie-breaking neutral site would be chosen should there be a tie. I was so confident, I predicted a sweep. After all, I was the superior cook, and I was using the superior cooking method. How could I lose?

Much to my chagrin, he won in an upset, besting me on my home turf, thanks to some of my traitorous relatives. Watching them lick their fingers and praise his ribs was almost enough to cause me to disown them, especially when they began chanting “MVP” and asking to see if the belt would fit him.

Fortunately, I neglected to invite them to round two. I was able to even the score at a neutral site, because my esteemed competitor was in the middle of moving to Columbia. (He decided that his moving might cause some of the judges to be overwhelmed with nostalgia and unable to make an impartial judgment. He wanted no hanging chads in his victory, he said.

Whatever. Armed with my Uncle Nate’s secret honey mustard sauce, I came out the winner. So we were tied at one victory each. But everyone could sense that his victory was an aberration. I had gotten my mojo back, and at the third and final match, I would be crowned champion. I placed an order for championship T-shirts and caps while we were packing up, and he goes and quotes Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over, till it’s over.” That was six weeks ago.

My phone rang the other day and he wants to have the last match at Williams-Brice Stadium, during one of the Gamecocks’ home games. I have to admit that in the weeks since my victory, I’ve mellowed a bit. He’s a nice guy with a nice family, and maybe it’s okay that we’re on opposite sides of so many issues. The world would be boring if we all agreed on everything, right?

Nahh. This is about barbecue and charcoal vs. gas. I’m kicking his butt so I can walk down the street with that championship belt and so all men who know that charcoal is number one can hold their heads high. I’m also kicking his butt so that Mary Ann can get her props.

She was so much hotter than Ginger.

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