A few days ago, one of the supplements in The Guardian did a little ‘Barbecues – For Or Against?’ piece that utterly failed to wow me. On the one hand there was the ‘Most barbecues are awful, but…’ argument, which had me sold on pretty much everything before the ‘but’. On the other was a few columns of socially contentious guff about burnt freezer sausages, liberally immolated offer accelerant-laced hell pits, and tended all the while by burly, topless men, fending off the nigh-indistinguishable feral dogs and children snapping at their ankles. I should say something pithy and sympathetic here really, mention my own council estate childhood rather than making me sound like a dreadful sneering twat. But I’m not going to.No, the barbecues I grew up with typified by the gormless, rather vacant confusion with which much of Britain seems to greet food.
Ok, so the Australian solution touted in the article made me throw up in my mouth a little, but there’s only so much parboiling that even a man who likes to cook Mexican can take. Back in Blighty, we take probably our most unusual, certainly our most unfamiliar and seasonally fragile means of cooking, and put it in the hands of a chef selected purely on the basis of body-mass, then scratch our big manly chins over the process of making fire, before liberally littering it with the worst produce available. My parents, bless them, had got a little further, but were wedged firmly in the eighties. Theirs was a land of skewered pork with a mushroom at the end, and oily mustard marinades which smoked like all hell.
It’s no huge surprise, then, that my reaction to an ebullient “Let’s barbecue stuff!” from Mr C (who is, after all, a broad-shouldered man with a beard) followed a rough trajectory from “Thrice-sodomised Moses, have I not put that shit behind me,” through to “Fine [sigh] but I want it in writing that you wont take your shirt off.” Three or four attempts later, all more or less untroubled by pasta salad, bare nipples, or gang violence, I’m ready to recant.