Someone said to me the other day: “Hey, let’s do the ‘Q’” and I scratched my head. OK, so my head was itchy but also, I didn’t have a clue about the “Q”. I thought maybe we were going to stand around in a “cue” which of course is the word that the British made up, meaning “lineup”. Why don’t they just say “lineup”?
Or perhaps I thought we were going to play pool, you know, using a cue. And a cue ball. But I knew that probably wasn’t it either.
“They have this super popular thing over at the neighborhood pub,” my friend says. “Once a week. A steak bar-b-que. All the fixins. And the ‘Q’ is a real deal!” He is smiling now, and I think he may also be drooling a little bit.
“I don’t think so,” I say. “I have this hedge that needs trimming and …”
“The first beer is included.” he adds.
“I’m in.” I say.
It’s bar-b-que season all right. I must say these days I’m not much of a bar-b-que-er, unless somebody else is wrangling the barbie, and then I’m a very enthusiastic participant in the eating part. But once upon a time, I used to be pretty good at it.
And I mean that in the sense of being able to burn some good meat once in a while. My go-to bar-b-que gear? A $10 Hibachi. I think everyone has owned a Hibachi at one time or another.
That tiny box-shaped cooking stove, not much bigger than a Stephen King hardcover, works surprisingly well. You’d throw it on a picnic table or right onto the ground (which wasn’t the best idea on account of it became a red-hot tripping hazard, not to mention the fact that you were left with a rectangular grass burn in your lawn about the size of a Stephen King novel.)
Then you’d dump a 10-pound bag of Kingsford charcoal briquettes into the Hibachi, spilling black toxic lumps all over the table and the ground etc.
Next were those relatively poisonous fire-starter cubes placed strategically within the charcoal pyramid pieces. Once you managed to light those with a cigarette lighter (12 minutes), you sit back and wait for the coals to burn till they are ‘just right’ (43 minutes).
This is an opportunity in the traditional Hibachi bar-b-que ritual to check the beverage cooler. Thoroughly and often.
Finally, when you can hold your hand over the coals to a count of three and only sear the first layer of skin off your palm, you are ready for the big moment — a T-bone steak the size of medium pizza. The scrumptious Safeway steak would seriously tax the sagging Hibachi grill but let’s face it; a four pound steak is the key to a successful bar-b-que.
I like my steak cooked precisely, accurately and carefully. Somewhere between “extra well done” and “charred”. The consistency of a potato chip is about right. None of this trendy “medium rare” nonsense — you might as well walk over and take a bite right out of a cow.
So I was pretty good at scorching the ol’ T-bone, as it were. It didn’t take a lot of talent, just a lot of charcoal, adult beverages and a good three hours or so. I think we wore out about five Hibachis over the years, but now we’ve got a fancy little Weber. It doesn’t burn the lawn but it’s not nearly as much fun.
So, “Why not?” I said to my friend. “Let’s go get into the cue for the ‘Q’”!
Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.