Tim Belford: Short Takes On Life
Tim Belford
Tim Belford
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Tim Belford is host of Quebec A.M. -- CBC Radio's popular English- language morning show (91.7 FM, 6-9, Mon.-Fri). He also is said to know a thing or three about wine.

Posted 05.19.03
Quebec City


Hell, all I wanted was a hamburger!

Like many Canadians, I can't wait for this time of year.

Time to slap the old T-bone on the grill, rustle up a few hamburgers, or maybe a nice, fresh salmon filet.

There are probably no people on earth -- with maybe the exception of the Aussies -- who love barbecues more than Canadians.

Since the first coureur de bois roasted a slab of moose over an open fire we've loved our charred meat.

And that's why I found myself this week looking for a new barbecue.

For a number of years I lived in the old part of Quebec City. I didn't have a back yard or a balcony. So I was charcoal-deprived.

But I moved and now I've got the space to do what comes naturally.

Years ago barbecuing was considerably simpler.

My parents had the ancestor of the hibachi. It was a simple metal box with spindly legs. You dumped charcoal into it and lit a match.

I live in a condominium, however, and real coals are taboo. So I have to purchase a gas-powered barbecue.

This is not easy.

First I had to decide how big a barbecue I needed.

The rule of thumb -- or should I say "palm" -- is that two hands, when laid flat, represent an entire meal for an adult.

So, if you want to serve four, lay out eight hands and that's the surface area of the grill you need.

Mind you, if you use the love of my life's hands it's about half of my own.

Once you decide the area of your grill, you have to work out the number of BTUs you need

Btu stands for British Thermal Unit, which is how much energy you need to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.

What heating water has to do with a medium-rare porterhouse I don't know.

Anyway, given the area my eight hands covered I apparently need 40,000 BTUs to cook a hot dog.

It didn't stop there.

I had to decide if I needed a bar burner, an h burner, single valve, or dual valve.

I had to select lava rocks, heat distribution plates, ceramic bricks, or smart bars.

Did I want a nickel-coated wire grid or porcelain coated? Steak grid or reversible cast iron?

Did I need a single-level warming rack, a double level rack, or a cantilever rack?

What about the lid shape? A side burner? Or a rotisserie?

Did I want a push-button igniter or a rotary igniter.

Hell, all I wanted was a hamburger!

If I went by all the criteria in the buyer's guide I'd end up with something that would hold an entire elk and that I could drive to work in the morning.

Oh well, if I can't decide on a gas burner for the balcony, there's always real charcoal and the parking lot of the condo.