I have a love-hate relationship with barbecues.
I love the idea – an informal outdoor gathering of friends and family in a sunny garden, with food and drinks thrown in, but I hate the reality.
I can put up with the fact that, far from being idyllically balmy, you are likely to find yourself shivering at some point in the proceedings, if not actually fleeing a rainstorm.
I can put up with screaming kids, even when they throw up on the trampoline. I can even live with the fact that my kids (used to) get too distracted to eat – I just make sure they’ve eaten before we go.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the type, or the taste, of barbecue food. I just can’t bring myself to eat it because of the fear of food poisoning.
I won’t even touch the grilled fruit and vegetable offerings, in case they came into contact with the warm, microbial taint of undercooked juices from meat that has previously, briefly felt the inadequate heat of the grill.
It’s a particular worry where the children are concerned (or was, in the case of the older two, now grown up), especially my youngest, who, because he has Down’s Syndrome, is more susceptible to infection, and more likely to become seriously ill as a result of contracting one.
I don’t like to be a killjoy though, and so, last summer, I put my mind to the problem and thought that I had come up with the perfect solution.
I put a sturdy table just outside the patio doors, in the lea of the house where it would be sheltered in the event of rain, added a heatproof mat, and ran a suitable extension lead to a socket just inside the house.
Then, my triumphant moment of inspiration, I proudly carried our ‘George Formby’ (sic) Grilling Machine outside, parked it on the mat and announced that we would be ‘doing’ lunch outside – eating AND cooking!
From my point of view it was a brilliant idea, a masterstroke – not only would everything be thoroughly cooked, as the grill reliably maintains an even and controllable temperature, and grills the food on both sides at once, but he lid meant that a certain someone would not be able to lob clods of soil, footballs and unfortunate earthworms onto the open grill.
What is it with men and barbecues – does grilling stuff over living fire, or at least hot coals, evoke some instinctive, primeval folk memory of man-the-hunter spit-roasting woolly mammoth outside the family cave?
Is it the adrenaline rush of not knowing whether you are going to survive your next meal?
I am content to remain ignorant for now, as our real barbecue has rusted away. That we live in a climate where barbecues do go rusty, is perhaps the most telling indicator that they are A Bad Idea.
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