Gotta love the BBQ

A white-trash survivalist’s guide to outdoor grilling

Photo by Tom Angel

Just like some great little Texas towns, Chico loves to barbecue. And that’s a good thing, right?

After all, barbecues take us outside into our lovely surroundings and usually provide a social experience. Barbecuing may not be the most healthful way to cook (depending on your tastes and methods), but it’s fun. And with the PG&E overlords prepared to destroy us all with ungodly rate hikes this summer, it saves power and doesn’t heat up the house.

With all that in mind, the CN&R offers this half-assed barbecue survivalist guide for those of you who plan to do quite a bit of outdoor grilling this summer.

Let’s be clear here: This is meant for all you basically clueless individuals throwing small outdoor parties, not hardcore flameheads who already have a Griswald beef-o-matic in the backyard. And this is definitely not for the husky dudes who buy gallon jugs of Mookie’s Cajun hot sauce to go with their 20-lb rib racks.

Remember, we live in America, the land of the free, where “it takes all kinds.” And the kind writing this article ain’t got no money (but I can still barbecue on my $20 mini-grill from Payless and have a damn good time). Word.

I throw barbecues in the parking lot outside my apartment that rock. Standing in oil slicks while roasting veggies, fish or turkey burgers, wearing only blue socks and some Bermuda shorts, watching for aliens and tossing a Frisbee around while things burn—that’s how I do it. Hey, the formula for a decent BBQ breaks down simply: good food, good people, good music and clear skies.

I like to grill healthy to avoid the dreaded pony keg belly (of course, consumption of liquids is a must, so you can’t shortcut the beer). I shop at S&S Produce, though you probably have your own favorite place. Besides pre-marinated salmon, S&S has tombo tuna for $9 to $10 a pound that’s loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, and boy is that good! Shark (for $6.99-$7.99 on special) is great on a grill because it’s an oily fish with firm texture (and they don’t get cancer, I read somewhere—what relevance this has to anything I don’t know).

“Fish is really popular,” says meat-cutter Adam Thomas from S&S Produce. “Everything is wild except our catfish, which are from Louisiana, and our salmon, which are raised in British Columbia. We get fresh loads every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”

Of course, seasoning and marinating practices depend on your personal choices; but you always want to have real butter, sea salt, garlic, lemon, fresh spices (tarragon and cilantro are great for fish)—you know what you like. For $3.99, S&S sells a good Basque fish sauce containing both sherry and burgundy wines (hmm).

LIGHT A FIRE UNDER IT <br>The inner sanctum of Chico barbeque culture may well be the extensive collection of ‘ques for all budgets on display at the Collier Hardware showroom.

Photo by Tom Angel

“Keep the grill cold beforehand,” Thomas says. “Get the fire going and then just throw the fish straight on.” Good advice. Also, if you’re smart and you want to skewer vegetables, wet the skewers first so they don’t burn or stick. And turn the music up a little bit louder so people next door can associate sound with that good smell.

About meat, Thomas informs me that no antibiotics and no hormones or animal byproducts (see: mad cow disease) have been used on his products. The animals are raised on a range, roaming beautiful land and breathing clean air, until the day they are “finished off on the feed lot,” as Thomas delicately puts it. But let’s not talk about meat, OK? I’m no vegan, but screw all that mess.

On the veggie side of the S&S store, you can stock up on Yves Good Dogs (the slightly larger veggie hot dog) or Garden/Boca burgers—and after ketchup and stuff, you’ll never know that you weren’t eating squirrel or pig bits (or whatever) goes into classic hot dogs.

Enough talk about food. You already know what you have in mind. Let us move to the Holy Grail of BBQ services in Chico, the “BBQ” room at Collier Hardware, which is well stocked with classic Weber items as well as just about anything you’re going to need for your white-trash party or Hawaiian-themed luau (see: tiki torches).

After you’ve gotten that box of .99 cent matches, the citronella candles (or however you prefer to ward off mosquitoes), your choice of charcoal or wood bits (best bought at Payless or Safeway), and your tongs or spatula, Collier has an expansive selection of grills, from small Webers ($20-$30) to the big gas guzzlers. Personally, I just buy a new cheap grill from the drug store every summer ($10-$15) because I’m an idiot and like to throw things away when they get too dirty or don’t work. If you want something you can clean and re-use for several summers, go with a Weber or other established name.

At Collier, one can also find neat little items for your trailer park James Bond, including the Taylor professional digital thermometer ("look just like a big ol’ fork, Mama"), which measures precisely how well done your charred flesh is.

And you’ve got the Steppin’ Clean II (for $13.99), which brush cleans the sides and soles of your shoes so that you don’t trail crap into your house, mobile home or apartment. If that’s not fancy enough, you can buy demonic animal toys called Shoe Buddies ($20) that sit outside your door, bristling, just waiting for you to wipe your feet on them.

And if you got a bunch of little ones runnin’ around, you’re going to need the American Eagle dinner bell ($30). That thing will let the whole neighborhood know “grub is on” at the redneck’s house. Of course, these are luxury items that you may not truly need.

Fundamentally, the great thing about BBQ is simplicity and fire!—getting in touch with our primordial caveman roots. I guess that’s why I love barbecuing and think that you should too. In fact, studies show that more people should invite friends into their back yards to sit around and enjoy the air. And if you have a friend who plays guitar, invite him to throw something on the grill. He probably has a good music collection and will help you drink your beer.

While you’re at it, start a fresh garden of spices back there, too (you can’t beat the homegrown stuff). Do it this weekend; your friend is probably just waiting for a place to take his food and chill out in a yard.

Now, I think I’ve done my part to get you in the mood. Knowing Chico, I doubt all this was even necessary.