When it's time to fire up the grill, I pile the meat and grilling tools onto a sheet pan and head outside. I pour the charcoal into the chimney starter and light it. I wait, sipping a beer. I grill. Inside, my husband sets the table. And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way.
It wasn't always like this. It used to be that neither of us grilled, despite living in Southern California, where it is grilling season year-round. Since I do a vast majority of the cooking, I wasn't eager to take on another responsibility, and anyway, wasn't it the guy's job to grill? I figured at some point my husband would be inspired to learn how to do it and then do it enough to get good at it.
Then I received a tutorial in grilling the perfect steak from a pro, turned around and grilled a bunch of sublime steaks for our friends that night, and that was it. I was hooked. The years of not grilling seemed so foolish; I should have been the one grilling all along.
Here's why I'm perfectly happy being the grill master in my house.
Expecting a guy to grill reinforces outdated gender roles.
I'm a feminist. I don't think my husband has an innate ability to cook over open fire or handle hunks of meat because he is a man. The assumption that he should is not only irritating to me, it also makes him feel bad because he can't fulfill that role. "I should know how to grill," he has told me more than once.
My husband is a successful actor, comedian, and screenwriter. He took theater in high school, not shop class, which means he accomplishes many home repairs with the help of duct tape and thumb tacks. But he knows how to troubleshoot our home entertainment system, patiently brings our toddler back from the brink of meltdowns, and is able to make even the crankiest DMV employee crack a smile. Which is to say, he is good at a great many things. Grilling is not one of those things. But neither is singing opera. Why should one of those make him feel like less of a man?
I'm a better, more experienced cook.
I've been cooking regularly since college, worked professionally as a chef, and as a food writer, spend approximately 75 percent of my waking hours thinking about, reading about, or writing about food. My husband loves food, but he cooks dinner about once a month. Unless it somehow intersects with Star Wars or Magic: The Gathering, he spends no additional time thinking about food outside of when he is eating it.
I'm better at grilling because I'm better at cooking. I know what a medium-rare steak feels like, I know where to poke the thermometer in a chicken thigh to check its temperature, and I know when to brush on the glaze so the sugar doesn't burn before the meat is done.
Choosing my husband to man the grill instead of me would be like casting me — a camera-shy introvert — as the lead in your movie instead of him. You could do it, but nobody would be happy about the decision.
I like the glory of grilling.
There is little glamour in day-to-day cooking. Getting dinner on the table at the end of a long day sometimes feels like a personal triumph, but it is rarely treated like one by anyone else. They might notice that the green beans are perfectly cooked, or they might not.
Grilling is different though. Grilling for a group usually happens on a weekend or holiday, everyone relaxed and happy to be outdoors in the sunshine, maybe getting a little buzzed on beers and wine spritzers. When the hamburgers are perfectly seasoned, when the steak is a beautiful rosy-pink, people speak up. They dig into their food with enthusiasm; they compliment the person behind the grill. They go back, loudly, for seconds or thirds.
I'll admit it: I like the glory of grilling. It feels good to do something well and receive public recognition for it. (Former teacher's pet here.) It's not something that happens often as an adult, so I relish it when it does.
That's why, should you ever come over for a cookout, you'll find me outside sipping a beer by the grill, tongs in hand. My husband will be the one bringing you a drink, probably while holding the baby. We like it that way.