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I grew up in rural Connecticut. When school was out, my mother went on permanent vacation from the kitchen and my father took over the cooking. Back then, of course, my father wouldn’t be caught dead in front of the kitchen stove, or bent over the oven. That was “female” cookery, and he would have none of it. No, any other time of the year there was not a chance he would stoop to the ordeal of cooking. But as soon and as surely as the grey achy days of April gave way to the pellucid greens of a junebug in spring, and certainly, by the time the lazy haze of summer followed behind the cottonwood and dandelion billows, my father, like the cantankerous but skillful cook in the wagon train going forth to finer pastures, was well equipped and prepared to barbecue. 

     

When stationed there at the helm of the charred steel, he transformed from the somewhat recalcitrant machinist he was, into a facsimile of John Wayne — his legs gone all bowed and his word studded over with a peculiar kind of Texas drawl. Back then, of course, we barbecued only meat, and “meat” meant only dogs and burgers. Our friends would visit us, and we them. The same story played out in different back yards. There must have been hundreds of thousands of us.                                                

The trade organization Hearth, Patio and Barbecue has statistics going back just to 1995 — a year when over 11 million BBQ Grills of various kinds were shipped to American homes. By 2007, that number had grown to be 17 million units in a single year. In the collective imagination of Americans, dads might be associated with BBQ the way moms are associated with apple pie.

Today, outdoor grilling has become more sophisticated, and one of the fastest growing sectors of home-improvement contractors is designing and installing complete outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, firepits, and all types of grilling stations.

I asked a few designers (men who have their own grilling stations) why they so much like to recommend outdoor kitchens. Sure enough, their enthusiasm spilled over themselves like ketchup over a bun:  

I just love to barbecue! I just love my grill, love the smell of the smoke, the roasted flavor everything has, hanging with friends while it all cooks, how it all adds up to summer in the evening, with the peepers singing and the fireflies sparkling over the meadow.


A quick search on the internet leads to all kinds of articles linking this phenomena to “man’s search to fulfill his primal urge to go back to prehistoric roots as the hunter and food provider.” If this is true, then the “New American Outdoor Patio-cum-Kitchen-Dining Area,” like the understated backyard barbecue that came before it, is clearly a trend — call it the American Primal Revival.  This revival has been nicely accommodated to modern lifestyles through the integration of sophisticated outdoor appliances with innovative patio designs that create complete outdoor kitchen-dining areas that satisfy primal concerns, but most certainly are not primitive.

With the large range of features available, outdoor grilling can be as much as a primal experience as nature can provide, as uptown as your audio-visual surround system can provide, or as downtown as my fathers’. The good news is that you get to fashion your own style.

POSTSCRIPT PHOTOS:

Custom Copper Cooker

 

Side View Copper Cooker

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