If you want a symbol of how much attitudes about grilling have changed in recent years, consider Labor Day.
When I was a kid, Labor Day marked the end of summer barbecue season—a sort of last hurrah of smoke and fire before you mothballed your grill for the winter.
These days, most of us grill well into the fall (hey, isn’t that why they invented tailgate season and Thanksgiving?), and a growing number of Americans (45 percent at last count by the industry watchdog Hearth and Patio Barbecue Association) keep firing up our grills all year long.
In upcoming issues of Up In Smoke and in our blog posts and social media, we’ll keep you posted on how the BarbecueBible.com crew grills for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s, Boxing Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, and Steven’s birthday in March. (Hey, we don’t need much excuse to light the grill.)
But back to Labor Day. For all you history buffs out there, when did Labor Day become a national holiday? The answer is 1894, when Congress officially honored the achievements of American workers on the first Monday of September (Oregon—progressive as usual—made it a holiday in 1887.) Today, Labor Day marks the end of summer, the return to school, and the last day when those fashion plates among us consider it permissible to wear linen, seersucker, and white shoes.
And the best way to celebrate Labor Day? With a barbecue, of course.
Many magazines and websites take an ecumenical approach, proposing everything from soy marinated baby backs to Mexican grilled corn. Others trot out the classics, such as beer can chicken and barbecued beef ribs.
Here on Martha’s Vineyard, we often prepare a grill-top clambake for Labor Day, using sweet local lobsters and clams I dig myself in Cape Pogue Bay. (We’ll tackle that grill-top clambake in a future newsletter.)
But this year, we’re celebrating Labor Day with a menu that’s the opposite of labor intensive. We figure you’ve been grilling hard all summer long. So why not serve a Labor Day menu that’s big on flavor and drama and light on actual work? You saw that coming: This September 2nd we’re going primal, and you don’t even need a grill grate.
That’s right, this Labor Day, you’ll cook your entire meal caveman-style—directly on the embers. Good for you if you own a charcoal grill. Even better if you own two. If you happen to be a gas griller, this is a good excuse to invest in an inexpensive charcoal grill.
The menu? Five Raichlen caveman classics:
Caveman T-bone with Bell Pepper Hash: A dish I developed for Primal Grill on PBS and always a hit at Barbecue University™. The eye-popping steaks with garlicky pan-roasted peppers (pictured at top) will be the talk of your Labor Day get-together.
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Yours in righteous grilling,
Steven Raichlen's official newsletter, Up in Smoke, is available exclusively on barbecuebible.com. Culled from experiences on the barbecue trail and beyond, Steven brings you reviews you can use, recipes, answers to your questions, special BBQ store discounts, and more. The newsletter is FREE and comes out every week. It is available first only to subscribers to the newsletter and then posted a month later in the newsletter archives. Sign up today!