Feminist Food Journal
Feminist Food Stories
Manning the Grill

Manning the Grill

And watching stereotypes of meat and masculinity go up in flames

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By Amirio Freeman for our MEAT issue

At the end of every school year growing up, there was always one event that I looked forward to more than any other summer activity: family cookouts—especially those featuring my dad as the grill master. I have yet to taste a burger that’s better than one grilled by my father and I cower at the thought of attempting to replicate his mastery. As the oldest of three boys, there’s a shared sense that I’m responsible for preserving this family tradition. However, the domain of grilling has always felt overly masculine and, therefore, incompatible with a queer Black boy like me.

Illustration by Zoë Johnson.

Meat has long been associated with masculinity, and one of the preeminent methods of cooking meat has long been associated with men. Just look at the way Father’s Day ads are consistently inundated with images of men placing an assortment of foods on heat. In my Southern household, grilling is also steeped in a rich Black tradition. Still, the overwhelming maleness of grilling imagery and culture has made it a tradition that I’m hesitant to continue. But at the same time, there is something about the maleness of the act that is intriguing: Especially in my family, the spaces where grilling is happening are also where men are together in rare moments of intimacy. While grilling invokes in me an anxiety around a kind of gender failure, there’s also a kind of queerness to grilling, which creates portals to Black male tenderness. 

In this podcast, through a conversation with my father, I dig into the gender, racial, and queer dynamics of grilling. Drawing on references to literature investigating meat’s link to masculinity, the piece offers an intimate dialogue between family members about how the act of bringing meat to a flame reflects Black food traditions in need of stewards, impositions of gender performance, and food as a vehicle for queer possibilities.

Further Reading

One Nation Over Coals: Cold War Nationalism and the Barbecue by Kristin L. Matthews, in American Studies, 50(3/4), 5-34. (Or read this summary blog)

Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue by Adrian Miller (Or read this interview with the author)


This episode was scripted and narrated by Amirio Freeman and edited and produced by Joy Imani Bullock.

Amirio Freeman (he/they) is a writer, interviewer, and audio storyteller who explores the relationship between humans and our beyond-human kin through a Black, queer lens. Amirio’s writing has been published in Broccoli Magazine, It’s Freezing in LA!, and Are.na Annual, among other publications. In partnership with Loam, the publishing branch of the Weaving Earth Center for Relational Education, they hosted the Loam Listen podcast from 2020-2022 as well as developed the Down to Earth Deck. Amirio is from coastal Virginia and currently resides in Philadelphia, PA, where they write their newsletter, PLANTCRAFT.

Joy Imani Bullock is a multimedia creative and dedicated storyteller. She works with mediums including film photography, digital photography, and video.


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Feminist Food Journal
Feminist Food Stories
Audio stories from Feminist Food Journal, an online magazine dedicated to a feminist food future.