Can you smell summer yet?

If winter is the new summer when it comes to firing up the backyard grill (as I reported last December), then the big snowfalls of the past few weeks mean spring must be the new winter - which is fine, since winter is summer anyway. I think.

And summer begins for real the first day you smell those delicious steaks and burgers cooking on your damned neighbor's grill. But according to a recent study, the smell of food grilling outdoors is so powerful that it can change your attitude and "stir actual emotions," especially feelings of connections to family, nature and childhood memories. For evidence, check out Jason Sheehan's recent review of the Columbine Steak House.

The study, conducted by the Beef Checkoff Program, a market development fund, studied consumers in Chicago, Tampa and Denver by making them keep grilling diaries (with special attention to beef, of course. It was paid for by the beef people, after all).

Here's what they found:

"Grilling creates a sense of harmony and togetherness" (though not for the cows).

"Grilling is a way to express culture or personality, through the use of ethnic flavors, favorite cuts, secret ingredients and pride in grilling skills" (and also a way to pass along to your children the time-honored tradition of singeing the hairs off of your wrist and hand).

"Grilling represents freedom, relaxation and enjoyment of being outdoors" (although it's not as good as being cooped up in your basement with a box of Doritos playing Wii).

So, shovel that snow off your patio, put on your flip flops and light that match. It's summer, dammit!

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