Something seems to be happening. The weather is warming up (even when it’s raining); the pollen count is rising - along with anti-histamines sales; the gardens are looking at their best; and there’s the inevitable drift of week-end smoke across the garden, tinged with the faint smell of paraffin fire-lighters.
Yes, the British barbecue season is upon us.
Threats of a warm and dry week-end will now result in rushed purchases at DIY stores and garden centres all over the country, some buying their first barbecue on the spur of the moment, others buying up the last stocks of charcoal. In previous years there have been reports of ‘check-out rage’ as punters vie for the remaining bags of briquettes. Even students get in on the act, with the little portable barbecues – the ones that look like an over-large pie dish. It’s all big business.
I, however, will not be joining them. Call me a spoil-sport, or even a Whingeing Pom, but I loathe barbecues.
The idea is, of course, fine in principle. Al fresco dining has a long and proud tradition around the world. Think Greek: a heavy dining table on the patio laden with salads, olives, stuffed peppers, houmous, moussaka, fresh crusty bread and jugs of local red wine. Think Italian: more olives, salad, pasta, and yet more red wine. Think Spanish, with freshly fried fish on the beach. Think even of our cousins Down Under, with big juicy steaks and thick slabs of fresh tuna, beers cooling in a bucket of ice, all by the pool.
And now think of
And perhaps, worst of all, think of all those blokes who, having not cooked a bean for six months, suddenly propel themselves into the limelight like a celebrity chef, machismo and spatula at the ready. It’s like a horrible pastiche out of “Neighbours”.
Some people, of course, have learned a thing or two over the years. The first rule is to cook everything important in the kitchen rather than outside. Leave hubby to wave around his fork over a steak outside if you must, but have some baked potatoes in the oven, some lamb chops under the grill, and sausages in the pan. Inside.
No-one will ever know, but you’ll cut the chances of giving them food poisoning, and the food won’t have that lingering taste of paraffin. You can even cater for the veggies with some grilled vegetable burgers or similar (though I don’t really think barbecues and vegetarianism were ever meant to mix).
There is an alternative, of course, that works, invented by the French, and adopted by us Brits with gusto, but that seems to have gone out of fashion recently.
Why not go for a picnic?