Cleaning Out the Basement, Big Boy Barbecue Book

Big Boy Barbecue Book by the Home Economics Staff of Tested Recipe Institute, Inc., 1957

Big Boy Barbecue Book by the Home Economics Staff of Tested Recipe Institute, Inc., 1957

The big boy of the title is, ostensibly, the Big Boy Manufacturing Company out of Burbank California that supplied suburban Americans with cancer-causing, greenhouse gas-producing cooking equipment. Aah, the good old days.

But we also know the big boy is the man wearing an apron and toque in the backyard, wrestling with meat and fire. Some things never change–well, maybe the toque.

A quick google search reveals much internet discussion on the turquoise color option of a Big Boy grill and its effectiveness as a piece of cooking equipment, but there is  total agreement on its fundamental coolness.

The Big Boy Company was incorporated in 1953 by Merle and Laverne Persinger, to make all kinds of fun toys for suburbia, including space travel-inspired wagons. According to Harry Rinker, “In 1956, The Big Boy Manufacturing Company in partnership with Kingsford Chemical, manufacturers of easy-light charcoal briquettes, published the Big Boy Barbecue Book subtitled, ‘Shows how easy it is to cook on Spit or Grill.’ At least seven editions of the book were printed.”

And no wonder. It would be a full two decades until Alice Waters and the Silver Palate Cookbook would take hold of American tastebuds, leaving plenty of time for making the most of meat in the backyard. Among the recipes here, hamburgers and hot dogs make the required appearance–in tricked out versions like Dixie Dogs and Blunderburgers. To cook those hotdogs, be sure to use the Big Boy Flip Grill–basically a giant fork that can spear four hot dogs at once. Not surprisingly, there’s lots of discussion of gear–spits, drip pans, thermometers, and slant grills.

I pledge allegiance...

I pledge allegiance…

And lots of meat recipes–beef tenderloin, turkey, squab, lobster tails, rabbit, pork chops and loins, lamb, liver, fish. There are cleaning tips, sauce recipes, and party ideas. Oh yeah, there are a few pages of vegetables and some desserts–to keep the little lady occupied and happy. The book is a relic of American backyard barbecue culture.

Mallman’s skill in heritage cuisines was inspired by gaucho traditions–campfires and cattle drives–and was refined in French kitchens. He calls his use of fire to reach “the pinnacle of flavors” barbaric…in a good way.

For some really intense grilling, team up with Argentinean chef, Francis Mallman.  For him, gear is likewise indispensable and no doubt, part of the appeal. Small forests fuel his fires. He rigs up barbecues with pulleys and chains, marshaling a backhoe to clear and set up his space. His meats are staked and upright (picture a crucifix), cooked in wheelbarrow, in giant cauldrons, spitting in the strong flames and heat of infiernello, gently in a horno oven for breads, or on a chapa flattop for cooking crusty and quick.

Seven Fires by Francis Mallman, Artisan 2009, hardback 278 pages

Seven Fires by Francis Mallman, Artisan 2009, hardback 278 pages

Even with an intense meat focus, Mallman’s book is a balanced selection of appetizers and sides—many grilled and many with an Italian influence—like the egg and greens pie called Pascualina, imported to Argentina by Genoese sailors and made with empanada dough.

North or South America, the barbecue’s open flame appeals to our frontier past–call in retro if you must.



About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
This entry was posted in cleaning out the basement, entertaining, history, technique, what's for dinner and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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