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The Manure Spreader: Medium rare

Tim Moffett Published on 11 June 2014

On my farm, the worst day of the year for milk production is the first day of summer. That’s when the cows have noticed I dragged out the old grill from the barn. Older cows know that grill stays fired up from now ’til Thanksgiving with a short spark on New Year’s and the Super Bowl.

Every animal on the farm is on its best behavior knowing the fate the grill can bring; every animal – except Gonzo, my dog. He taunts all the other animals, including the cat.

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Barbecuing has always seemed to me a purely American pastime. George Stephens invented the Weber grill in 1952. Remarkably, one week later he invented a pair of tongs and a spatula with 18-inch handles to keep from burning his knuckles.

Little-known fact – looked it up on Wikipedia – Ol’ George had 12 children. So it really should not be a surprise he invented something to get him out of the house.

Barbecuing began in earnest when George invented the first grill with a dome top to protect the food from the elements. He understood: If there was a downpour or bird poo, make sure it falls on the farmer, not the food.

In my life, I have seen a man walk on the moon, the invention of the Internet and even edible flower arrangements. The most amazing thing I’ve experienced: In Chicago, at the Weber Grill Restaurant, they took the outside grill and moved it inside.

Pure genius! People, I ask you, what other outside amazing fun could you move indoors? When I was 8, I tried to bring my Slip‘n Slide into the house. My mom stopped me at the door and kept yelling how I would break china.

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How did those people even know I had one, and what did they care? I guess they track everything they make. I know what you are thinking. Tim, what about a trampoline? Sure, great idea, but my bedroom was on the second floor.

Now I may be biased, but I always believed farmers made the best grill-smiths. First, we always have the freshest ingredients; sometimes those ingredients will walk right up to the grill. Second, farmers understand it is a passion to barbecue and not a sport.

I admit to being disappointed to see a backyard tradition turned into a television show. No, not horseshoes or lawn darts, that’s a sad story in itself. I speak of seeing barbecuing on ESPN. When I watch ESPN, I expect to see the dexterity and prosperity of a well-trained athlete.

I don’t want to watch with anticipation as “Bubba” sits atop a cooler, holding a sweat-drenched towel, complaining about the agony of “da feet” for four hours while waiting for his Boston butt to cook.

Barbecue should not be about television rights, it should be about bragging rights. Bragging rights: The fact that your cousin ate too much of your granny’s secret sauce and he cried like a little girl. Barbecue should be for family, not for fame. Good grief, have you seen some of the things these people are grilling?

And when did vegetarians get involved? They grill celery root, romaine lettuce and even peaches. I see this as blasphemy to meat-eating Americans everywhere. Vegetables have three categories: side dish, fried and no-thank-you. It takes generations to make it to “grill” status. Ol’ George is spinning on a spit in his grave.

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So people, put your secret sauce in one hand, your tongs in the other – and if that sausage falls on the ground, remember the three-second rule or give it to that nephew you hate. PD

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