Earlier this week, I heard some guy in a local radio station commercial say, "You're not a real Alaskan if you're not grilling outside by now."
By now? No real Alaskan would ever stop grilling outside just because there's a little snow and ice on the ground. Anyone worthy of the title has been grilling outdoors all winter long.
Every year about this time, we're bombarded with the misleading message that summer is barbecue season. A sampling from Google: "Grilling season is back." "How to prep your barbie for grilling season." "Beef prices rise as barbecue season fires up." "Let Grilling Season Begin!" And my favorite: "A Vegetarian's Guide to Surviving Barbecue Season."
I've got news. Real Alaskans don't give a hoot about any so-called barbecue season. To real Alaskans, it's always barbecue season.
Your average real Alaskan's freezer is full of salmon fillets. No real Alaskan would give up a favorite fish-cooking method just because it's a little chilly outside.
Real Alaskans don't curl up and whimper just because the calendar or some "weather person" says its winter. They don't just hunker down and survive in winter. They snarl at it. They meet winter head-on. They spit in its eye. When there's a record cold snap or snowfall, real Alaskans don't snivel and whine about it. They brag about it. To hear them, you'd think they personally helped make it happen.
Real Alaskans tend to be tolerant of cold and other things that cause pain. They won't admit it, but they sort of like pain. Pain is a great source of bragging rights.
"See this here scar? That's where a red-hot grill full of moose ribs got me, back in '63."
No definition of "real Alaskan" would be complete without addressing gender. Some women qualify, but very few. In my opinion, women don't become real Alaskans for the same reason that so few of them participate in the midnight king salmon opener at Deep Creek. They aren't real Alaskans for the same reason that they don't dig razor clams in November, when the low tides are at night and the temperatures are below zero. Women don't have enough "close-call" stories to qualify. In short, women are simply too smart to be real Alaskans.
While I once may have qualified as a real Alaskan, I don't consider myself one anymore, having left the state during the winter just past to live in Washington. Snow birds aren't real Alaskans. However, one of the first things I did upon returning to Sterling in March was to scrape the ice and snow off my trustworthy Weber, throw some chunks of alder on the coals and grill a slab of salmon. I may not be a real Alaskan anymore, but I still know how to act like one.
Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.