My favorite Fourth of July story was this one, by freelance editor Robin Rauzi in the Los Angeles Times: It’s titled “How Vegetarians, Gluten-Frees, Grain-Frees and Other L.A. Food Tribes Ruined My BBQ Tradition.”
A better title: “How to Be the Weenie at Your Own BBQ.”
Poor Rauzi: He made the mistake of (1) cultivating obnoxious, overbearing politically correct friends in the first place; and (2) not telling them to take a long walk off a grain-free pier when they made him feel guilty about generously extending them his hospitality.
Anyone who knew my wife and me knew that on Friday night we would be on the patio, grill fired up. Just show up with a side dish.
There was, however, a hitch with this from the very beginning:
The very easiest form of cookout — burgers and hot dogs — was off the table from the start. My wife, some years before we met, stopped eating beef. I’ve long abandoned trying to explain her political or social or dietary positions to others, but I think it had something to do with the Ogallala Aquifer.
OK, Robin, you married her and you love her. But whatever weird thing the Rauzis were grilling that summer—bison patties?—obviously gave their neighbors ideas about what else they could get away with imposing:
Our friends next door, not surprisingly, very quickly became FNBBQ regulars. Co-hosts, really. But one of them had narrower meat options: no mammals. So that first summer we grilled a lot of variations on chicken and turkey sausage, and filled in with salads and slaws.
Guess the sex of the “one of them” with the “no mammals” rule. Also, count me out at the Rauzis. If a sausage isn’t made with mammal meat, I don’t care how fired up your grill is.
Then the circle expanded to include the first semi-vegetarian. Cracks began to show. I am an omnivore raised in the Midwest, where barbecues are, by rights, bring-your-own tofu affairs….
In what I considered a propitiatory gesture, I added salmon to the grill — but the semi-vegetarian didn’t eat fish, or like it, or something. My wife gave me a look that said “What in the world is wrong with you?” She then added aloud, “There is nothing here for her to eat.” Apparently my fallback position, that vegetarians should fill up on bread and cheese, was not hospitable.
At this point, if I were Rauzi, I’d start thinking about getting a different wife.
Shortly after this faux pas, the no-mammal neighbor developed a mysterious stomach ailment that required avoiding hard-to-digest fibrous vegetables, such as lettuce, kale, spinach and pretty much anything else you’d use as the basis for a salad. And corn on the cob.
Poor thing. She ate little as we pressed on with FNBBQ into summer three.
Yup, you guessed the sex right.
Her husband began contributing barley or bulgur grain salads. Around the same time, the book “Grain Brain” became a bestseller, blaming whole grains for everything from Attention Deficit Disorder to dementia. He took home a lot of leftovers.
My wife and I had copious leftovers too. Alongside grains, a general fear of gluten and sugars had taken hold, and there were nights when no one touched the La Brea Bakery rustic bread I’d toasted on the grill, to say nothing of dessert.
Robin, Robin! You served bread from the most expensive and pretentious bakery in Los Angeles at a backyard barbecue? Freelance editors must make a lot of money. https://www.labreabakery.com/
And then I thought about my brother-in-law. He’s been paleo-leaning for years, but has now adopted a full-on ketogenic diet. (You can Google it.) All I know is that vegetables are just carbs in his book. He’s got reasons — something about blood sugar and making his brain function better — but the upshot is he prefers bone broth.
Well, the one thing to be said about paleos is that they’ll actually eat the hamburgers. But I forgot: Your wife won’t let you serve those.
Right now, Rauzi is feeling sad:
FNBBQ went on hiatus.
As this summer began, I considered trying to revive it. I miss having a standing date with my friends, the bonhomie of sipping rosé under lights strung up in the tree. I want very much to have the kind of home where people can just stop by and feel welcome no matter what food tribe they are in.
Here’s some advice for Robin Rauzi: You are the owner of your home. Therefore, you are the master of your barbecue. Throw open the gates to your patio as wide as you like—and serve whatever you feel like serving. He who springs for the rose has the right to call the shot(glasse)s. Tell your friends and neighbors that they’re free to bring over whatever foods or nonfoods they feel like bringing over, but you’re not in a position to cater to every brain-dead grain-free head in L.A. If they don’t like it, they can stay right where they are.
In short, be a generous host, but act like a man.