There’s nothing quite like the smell of a barbecue, nothing quite like the whiff of charcoal wafting on the balmy summer air.
And that’s it as far as I’m concerned. What do I mean – that’s it? I mean I like the smell of a barbecue. End of story.
But don’t ask me, or expect me, to actually barbecue. Don’t care if the sun is splitting the stones. Don’t care if it gets you out of the Covid-19 kitchen. I still won’t barbecue. I am not a barbecue man. Period.
Okay, if the wife wants to barbecue, so be it. I will gladly assist – I will carry chicken wings, burgers, sausages, steaks, whatever, from the fridge to the barbecue. I will even go so far as to light the damn coals. And, if needs be, I will supervise the barbecuing – while sipping a chilled beer, of course, and perusing a good book or periodical.
I am not totally useless, I’ll have you know, when it comes to barbecuing. Other than that I will have no act or part in the process. I will, of course, partake of the edibles; I would not be so churlish as to let my good wife eat the food that she barbecues on her own!
My other issue with barbecuing in these Covid-19 days is the fact that there are only two of us in the house. Our four children are scattered around the globe – Wales, Vietnam, Lisbon, Berlin (and probably barbecuing). Some are in lockdown, some are just out of it. Point is you need people for a barbecue – a family, a group, a crowd even.
Barbecuing for two is a waste of time. You really need company, big people, small people as in kids and maybe a family dog sniffing around and making a nuisance of himself but perfecting the barbecue scenario.
In short – barbecue equals party. And parties are not on the menu at the moment. Although I do occasionally hear lots of voices, young voices, wafting on the balmy, summer air. And for sure they’re not saying the rosary!
I have, of course, tried my hand at barbecuing in the past, but the past is another country and one I have no intention of revisiting.
What I will revisit, however, is what I had to say about my ‘brilliant’ barbecue days back then.
Read on: The man who invented barbecues - should be barbecued. Why? Because it’s the most frustrating method of cooking food that I know of. It takes 10 minutes to fry a few burgers on your pan. It takes one solid hour to cook them on your barbecue.
Barbecues are bad news. You need to be of a certain disposition to host a barbecue. I don’t possess that disposition.
Furthermore, you mustn’t be hungry. Being hungry at a barbecue is torture. Fresh air whets the appetite wonderfully. As do a few of cans of chilled beer. At barbecues you’ve got both: fresh air, chilled beer and coals that take maybe an hour, or more, to warm up. During which time your hunger is building up, and up, until you’re tempted to chew a raw sausage to ease the hunger pangs.
Now patience is a virtue but at barbecues it is an absolute necessity. You must be patient with meat that cooks perfectly to the north but remains red and raw to the south. You must be patient with victuals that slip through the grid and burn to a cinder before your eyes - your very hungry eyes.
Hunger aside something else that suffers at barbecues is sobriety. It’s a Catch 22 situation really. You’re starving but there’s nothing ready to eat, so you “quench” your hunger with another beer. And another and another.
Sozzled and sizzled
And now you, the cook, the chef, the maitre d, is nicely sozzled while the food sizzles.
Furthermore, the guests are getting anxious. Actually it’s not so much anxiety as starvation. Some of them, you notice, are salivating profusely while others are gnawing the legs of the table.
Ah but finally we are ready to eat. Almost. The victuals are cooked but the salad has still to be served, the coleslaw rationed, the potatoes portioned and the wine opened. By which time the guests are fluthered, the kids agitated while every bee within a five mile radius has zoomed in for the kill.
But here’s what makes barbecues such wonderful fun - we’re so hungry and inebriated we devour everything and I mean everything (including the bees) with relish. And to strains of: “Lovely”, “Very tasty” and “What is it?” What is it? Food glorious food, that’s what it is. Barbecued food. Burned food. But who cares. We’re starving, we’re sozzled. We’re barbecuing for God’s sake.
So, hey, let’s crack open another can of beer.