Homes Food Kitchen Smarts Marinating

This 2017 photo shows a London Broil marinating before being grilled in New York. Marinating is a terrific basic kitchen technique. Essentially, you can take any kind of meat, fish or seafood, submerge it in a marinade, and you've turned a plain something into a great dinner. (Mia/Katie Workman via AP)

You’ve heard of the barbecue test.

It is an arbitrary question to determine whether or not you would enjoy someone’s company enough to invite them to your backyard barbecue.

Well, for me nobody would pass my barbecue test. Not because I’m a misanthrope. But because I don’t dislike anyone enough to torture them with a meal I prepared on the grill.

My grilling was scarier than trying to negotiate the temporary 12-way stop at the intersection of Peart Road and Cottonwood Lane.

Now that’s scary.

“It’s your turn. No, it’s your turn. You in the left-hand lane, you go. You three go at the same time. Hey, wait, your turn over there.”

I digress. Now, where was I?

My expertise at grilling was limited to hamburgers, hot dogs and the occasional steak that would be burned on the outside and raw in the middle.

But the pandemic has changed all that.

Like most people, when the stay-home order was issued, my wife and I were left to our own devices when it came to preparing meals. Don’t get me wrong, my wife is a great cook, but it was unfair to burden her with preparing meals for the two of us seven days a week, especially since she was an essential worker and still had a job to do.

During the BC period I would relieve her of this burden by taking her out to dinner as often as three times a week. We are in that privileged class of couples, both still working, but no kids at home.

But with restaurants closed, I had to come up with another option of helping with mealtime preparation. I had to up my game. And out of sheer boredom, or sympathy for me, my wife decided to also up her game when it came to making meals.

We both started paying attention to new recipes, including those presented by Arts and Entertainment Editor Melissa St. Aude in her weekly Simple or Not Kitchen video program on PinalCentral.

Pretty soon I became a barbecue master and my wife a master chef. I started grilling fresh veggies like zucchini and peppers as well as fresh pineapple (my favorite). I got better at cooking steaks and created other main dishes like yellow marinated Mexican chicken and butter-garlic salmon.

And it turns out we weren’t alone when it came to improving our meal-making abilities.

According to a poll, the average American has learned to cook four new recipes since lockdowns began., a provider of rehabilitation resources and treatment information, conducted a study of 3,000 Americans to find out if they have adopted healthier choices during the lockdown. Overall, over half of Arizonans (51%) say the lockdown inspired them to make healthier lifestyle choices, such as quitting smoking, exercising more and drinking less alcohol. This is compared to the national average of 54%.

Many respondents say they have embraced the opportunity to fine-tune their cooking skills with more recipes as they prepare more meals for themselves and family.

My wife and I find that we have enjoyed our meals much more at home than we ever did at the restaurants. And there is no wait for a table.

Recently my wife had to actually quarantine away from me for a few days while she waited for results of a COVID-19 test after she was exposed at work. She was confined to her bedroom and we had to prepare our meals separately, taking turns locked in a bedroom while the other used the kitchen.

A few years ago I might have died of starvation under such an arrangement, but aside from missing my wife’s company, I was able to adapt.

She tested negative. Now we are back working as a team, with me grilling and her creating new dishes.

I feel so confident in my barbecue acumen that when the pandemic comes to an end, I will have no problem inviting, even my multitude of critics, to a backyard barbecue.

I wonder if the sheriff will be free.


You can reach Andy Howell at


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