King of The Grill ( Real Men Don’t Use Recipes)o

20130217-113034.jpgMy late husband, like most men, considered himself the King of The Grill. I may do everything I want in the kitchen, but the grill was his turf. Especially if we had company, not only did he barbecue different kinds of meat, he also took care of the side dishes. Aside from ceviche, he had his cucumber salad and his green onion-tomato-vinegar concoction. He roasted corn, he chucked oysters, he entertained the guests, he did most everything. Me? I was content to play “supporting role in a major production.” Taste tester/grub eater/ food critic … It was a dirty job, but somebody had to do it, right?

One day, I had a hankering for good ol’ Filipino barbecue. I wanted me some finger-lickin’ meat seared on the grill. Problem was, my hubby was still at work. I called him. He said he’d be home around six and he’d barbecue for me then. Not good enough. My tummy was like a honey boo boo child who did not take no for an answer. I told him I was going to cook it myself. No, no, no, was his horrified response. He said he’d be home soon and he forbid me to touch that grill. Big mistake. Forbidding me to do something never fails to make me want to do the complete opposite. What can I say? Obedience has never been my strongest point. Grill, grill, grill, chanted my inner devil. It wasn’t long before I ventured forth into forbidden territory armed with marinated meat, a bag of charcoal briquettes and a pair of tongs. I was going where no woman had ever dared before. Barbecue Land, here I come!!! stock-illustration-9689511-cartoon-angry-old-woman-with-a-wooden-spoon

I would have loved to tell a tall tale about the trials and tribulations of my first attempt to barbecue. I would have loved to boast that I had to put on war paint and spear me a wild boar to roast on the spit. I would have loved to brag that I had to ward off hungry marauders intent on running off with my loot. Truth of the matter was, the only hunting going on was me running up and down the aisles with my grocery cart, and the only threat to my food was an errant fly who made the fatal mistake of landing within swatting range. Truth of the matter was, this whole me-proving-I-can-barbecue-thing was kinda dull and uneventful. Without the table-thumping of the hungry savages I call my friends and family, this one-woman party was a real dud.

When my kids and my husband got home, the food was ready. My kids were surprised that I barbecued , but it didn’t take long for them to dig in. My hubby was a little more hesitant. He chewed his food quietly, but I could tell that he was fighting not to show any enthusiasm for it. After all, I did invade his turf, even after he specifically told me not to do it. I just let him stew for a while, then, when he was done, I asked him how he liked it. He nodded his head and said, “It’s good, Mama.” That was enough for me. I just tried to hide my smile, because as I was savoring the last bite, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that the barbecue was not just good, it was unbelievably, incredibly delish!!! But of course, I had no intention of rubbing that in his face. Life went on as usual as the tables got cleared up and everything put back in its place. I told myself that my first attempt to barbecue was going to be my last. Life was definitely easier and more fun on the receiving end of the grill.

The next day, I was busy cooking something in the kitchen when my hubby wandered over to my territory. When it came to cooking, my husband and I were poles apart. He liked having people around when he cooked, especially me and my kids, because he liked to “involve” us. That meant ordering us around. The guy was a real genius at finding things for us to do. Slice this, peel that, do this, do that. The guy spat out orders faster than we could do them.

I, however, like to have the kitchen to myself. I think of it is the stage with me as the star. While stirring the soup or sautéing the meat, I sing my repertoire of 70’s songs with the wild abandon of a female William Hung of American Idol infamy.

“Straight up now tell me, do you really wanna love me forever? Ah, ah, ah, or are you just having fun?” I may be no Paula Abdul, but since I don’t have a Simon Cowell to judge me, my delusions remain unchallenged. Usually, nobody dares to interrupt my concert, nobody, that is, except my husband. When he comes moseying down my way, my musical extravaganza usually runs out of steam.

“Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

I always feel that way when he comes around. You see, between the two of us, he is actually the better cook, so I always get a little insecure when he sticks his nose in. I have a dozen or so staple dishes that I’m good at, but when I experiment with a new recipe, even if I measure tablespoons and follow instructions to the T, sometimes, it still doesn’t come out right. I usually end up calling him to come to the rescue. He, on the other hand, can just toss things in a boiling cauldron and come up with something yummy.

So that day, he came sniffing around, tasted my cooking, made some suggestions, and ended up taking over. As usual. This time I didn’t mind. I felt sorry for infringing on his barbecue rights, so I zipped up my mouth while he tasted my soup and added one seasoning after another.

Then, out of the blue, he asked me, as casually as he could, “So what did you put in your barbecue yesterday?”

What? Was the King of The Grill asking me for my recipe? I could not help but let out a triumphant whoop and danced Indian-style around the kitchen. “Ha-ha! I can’t believe you’re asking for my recipe. My barbecue must have been so good that you could not stop thinking about it. Since yesterday! Admit it! Say it! My barbecue is better than yours!”

Of course, he would not admit any such thing. He tried to shrug it off, saying that he was just curious, but I knew better. I couldn’t wait to brag about this to my cousins and friends. And to think they always praise his cooking. “Ron, can you cook paksiw? Ron, can you cook baked tahong?” Who’s your daddy now?

Bitaw (seriously, in our dialect), what did you put in there?” He still tried to act like my answer was of little interest to him, but I could see right through him. My barbecue impressed, or threatened, him enough for him to risk his pride and reputation by asking for my recipe. The more he asked, the more I teased him.

This was one of those rare culinary triumphs that had to be savored. The whole day, I could not stop grinning. Nor could I stop dancing. And singing. And teasing him. “I am not telling you my recipe, because for once, you admitted that I cook better than you. This is a rare treat. Let me enjoy it! Tra la la…” Life was sweet!

As we were ready to go to bed, I finally put him out of his misery. I whispered in his ear my “secret” recipe. It was a recipe so secret that even I did not know it. You see, when I made the marinade, I just grabbed any half-empty bottle I could find in the cupboard, and dumped the contents in a bowl. I could not tell you exactly what I put in there or how much, even if my life had depended on it. So there! That meant I would not be able to barbecue as well again, nor did I have any intention to.

With that revelation, my hubby nodded off with a peaceful look on his face. His throne was restored, his crown was secure, and his reign, unchallenged. He went to bed that night, and woke up the next day, as always, the undisputed, the one and only, King of the Grill, in our household, at least.

His grilling days are over, but Ronnie had his own secret recipe for being loved and remembered by so many: He treated each and every one he encountered like they were royalty.

This one’s for you, my King of The Grill.


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