Barbecue Wars

It’s one of those Saturday afternoons when I just don’t have the ambitious drive it takes to flip through the really exhausting number of television channels out there to find something good to watch. So I’m spending my time watching a DVD special feature instead – a profoundly interesting interview with the caterer from Lord of the Rings (I had no idea that it would be so difficult to find good roast beef in New Zealand). Anyway, that’s when I hear the delivery van pull up outside.

Standing on tiptoe and peering through a gap in my living room vertical blinds, I can’t help but notice that the Appliance World delivery van had backed into my neighbour’s driveway. Alright, I say to myself, the conflict has escalated.

It all began three years ago. Up to that time, it had been conceded by all of the neighbours on my block that my small-production barbecue, the liquid-cooled Thermostrike Hydrotech, was the gold standard for backyard grilling on our block. As soon as the insufferably smug Idris Idris Jones moved in two doors down, though, he began bragging about his Ferlinghetti Spitfire 6000; – at that time, of course, the state of the art in barbecue technology.

Naturally, I declined his gloating invitations for weekend get-togethers. I had perused all the specifications, and was well aware of the Ferlinghetti’s admittedly impressive attributes. Night after night, though, I sat seething in my lightless bedroom, watching my sycophantic so-called friends and neighbours ooohing and aaahing over his carbon alloy grill, his computer-calibrated rotisserie spit, capable of turning an entire suckling pig or side of beef.

My own garden parties, which used to be the talk of the neighbourhood, had dwindled down to a few b-list attendees, like the deranged guy with the savage pit bull who lives three doors over and Fred from 2935, who would be okay if it weren’t for his habit of making off with the silverware. And stereo equipment.

Naturally, I had to respond. After some high-level negotiations at the bank, I was able to go shopping. That’s when I saw it advertised in the back pages of Hi-Tech Gourmet. Technology developed by M.I.T. in collaboration with General Dynamics. Fuelled by a volatile mix of hydrogen and magnesium. Twin cooling towers. Forty thousand BTU’s. Computer-facilitated preprogramming for any type of meat from lamb and chicken to wombat and flying squirrel. Comes complete with a bag of wood chips hand carved by skilled artisans from some of the finest and rarest old growth timber on Earth. The approximate size of an Airstream trailer. Hydroformed steel grill able withstand temperatures approaching the surface of the sun. Six month warranty. All for little more than the price of a couple of decent BMW’s. The Fujitsu Salamander. I had to have it.

My old friends gathered about me once more. Idris Idris Jones became the neighbourhood laughing stock. A few of us gathered together and lit a burning bag of cow manure on his front step. I installed track lighting in the backyard, and threw enormous parties. It was glorious.

Then I see it. The enormous box coming out of the delivery van with New York State license plates. Six men with winches and dollies maneuvering it through Jones’s front door. And three full months before the official start of barbecue season. Alright, Jones. I don’t know what you’re bringing to the picnic table, but this time the oven mitts are off.