ELDER MUSIC: Marty Robbins
Cat Culture

Memorial Day 2011

Memorial Day was created to honor both Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the U.S. Civil War. It was later extended to include World War I and now, in memory of the men and women who have died during all U.S. military conflicts.

Although there are parades throughout the country, many towns ended them decades ago and nowadays the three-day weekend is universally known as the unofficial beginning of summer marked more by retail sales, picnics, backyard barbecues than flags flown at half staff from front porches as when I was a kid.

But I'm not here to complain about that. Instead, I was intrigued on Saturday by a story in The New York Times about the Weber Grill. According to the company, the week leading up to Memorial Day weekend is the busiest of the year for its telephone hotline when

”...thousands of befuddled grillers (overwhelmingly male) are being rescued by a team of about 40 grilling experts (almost all of them women).”

Backyard grilling is traditionally the domain of the alpha male of the household and that causes some amusement at the hotline center. According to the Times story, it goes something like this:

”It is supposed to be a foolproof formula. But the guy at the grill is frantic. He has a yard full of hungry guests, and he is fumbling to get the gas flaming properly. It is a Memorial Day weekend nightmare that calls into question the very essence of his suburban manhood. Furtively, he dials the Weber Grill hot line for help, and Janet Olsen is on the line.

“'Quick, I need to talk to a man,' he says curtly.

“For Ms. Olsen, 67, it was yet another caller insisting that no woman could possibly grasp a grilling issue.

“With 14 years on the job, she calmly but firmly explains that she will be able to handle the problem. If the man is especially upset, she suggests, 'You might want to grab a beer — and just listen for a while.'”

It sounds to me like a variation on the asking-for-driving-directions dispute that divides the men from the women. And there's more:

”Most of the time, Ms. Olsen said, the answer is an easy one. People sometimes simply forget to turn up [the] heat. 'You’ll tell the man the answer, and in the background you can hear his wife say, “See, I told you so.”'

“If things go wrong, she encourages people to have some perspective. 'It’s not life-saving medicine,' Ms. Olsen tells them, 'it’s just grilling.'”

You can read the entire story here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Bob Brady: Twin Toddler Take No Prisoners


Amusing ... but kinda sexist.

When my former husband left he took the grill with him but I still have my portable gas grill designed for camping which I've enjoyed over the years. I'm trying it out again. It's a plus the house doesn't smell like whatever was cooked for dinner. "Girls at the Grill" blog, mentioned in the article is good too! It may be "sexist" as Sightings mentioned but there's not one woman in my family or friends who does the grilling (except me). Interesting.

Too funny!

Happy Memorial Day to you, Ronni.

I just have another beer and applaud my wife's skill at the grill. We have a deal; she doesn't do windows and I don't do brats.

My son was a male last time we checked, and he is a grilling expert.

I am completely befuddled about what is sexist in this story. It just reports events at the Weber company grill hotline:

More men than women do the telephoning; there are more women than men employed as customer service reps. Reps have heard wives comment in the background.

Additionally, there is a multitude of anecdotal evidence over decades that men generally are loathe to ask directions when they are lost and women regularly do ask.

What is the the problem?

Sadly, people tend to forget (or never knew) that the history of the special day we elders once knew as Decoration Day precedes Memorial Day and any of the modern wars. It even precedes the Civil War. It's an old and very respected and much observed day in the South and in the Appalachian mountain tradition that I grew up with. One good history of it can be found at a University of North Carolina blog here ....

We always went to family graves in the surrounding area at the end of May to clean up the winter's damage, cut the grass off the graves, and leave fresh flowers. We also checked all of the gravestones to make sure they were still standing. Many of these graves were ancient. My family had been in the region since around 1790. I remember going with my parents and my grandfather .. and Grandad would always tell me who was buried in each grave and a little of their history. At 74 years of age I still remember all of those visits very clearly.

I did the grilling at our house mostly and I'm a luddite on this -- no electricity for me! I use an old fashioned charcoal grill.

The little graveyard in Missouri where my husband's family is buried used to have their decoration on the first Sunday in June. My Mother-in-law said it was for convenience but I've since heard that in the South this was to remember Jefferson Davis' birthday on June third. Knowing the attitude of the family I tend to believe this story.

Is this a troll?

Our family members are buried in various cemeteries around the region. It is not possible to visit all of them. We are trying to get to those nearby today to leave flowers. I hope someone remembers me on some future Memorial Day. Or any day, for that matter-even if it is while grilling a brat with a beer in hand.

Here's what's sexist about it, Ronni.

The wife goes to the store and buys the steaks and all the other foods and goodies that make up the meal.

Then she lugs them home and puts them away until time for the cookout.

Then she prepares the salad, slices the cheese, bakes the potatoes,cuts the rolls,shucks the corn,and brings the steaks out on a large platter to the hubby who will do the grilling.

He puts them on the grill and turns them over once. The wife serves them to the family and guests and all you hear all day is," That was a great meal, Herb. Thanks a lot."

Herb then joins the guests for a beer and another pat on the back for cooking such a wonderful meal and the wife
spends the next hour cleaning up the plates,glasses and grill.

And today was just the start of it for this Summer!

That summer scenario may or may not be so for all or some people, but the story isn't about men's and women's backyard barbecue roles. It's about a the FACTS of a grill company's call center.

Mostly men call - that is a fact, not sexist. Mostly women are employed answering those calls - that is a fact, not sexist.

You are mixing apples and oranges.

A nice change of pace for Memorial Day posts. Thanks.

Enjoyed your account from Weber Grill caller service. My husband derived no pleasure whatsoever from grilling and seldom did. My son enjoys cooking and grilling. I like to think it's because I introduced him to the process just as I did his older sister beginning when they were young. However, he likes cooking more than she does.

I think men and women might enjoy grilling more if they visited "Melinda Lee" -- website/radio show of a former NYC/LA caterer who shares her culinary knowledge and successful outdoor cooking tips. Her call-in radio show elicits queries and hints from males and females, amateurs to obvious pros. Wish I'd had time to listen to her years ago, or had even known about her.

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