Aussie bar­bie cul­ture can snag many a Pom­mie new­comer

The West Australian - - OPINION -

Never touch an­other man’s bar­be­cue. Those snags on the grill may well be rapidly turn­ing to char­coal and the burg­ers re­sem­ble ice hockey pucks, but that’s still no rea­son to pick up those tongs with­out be­ing asked.

As a species, Aussies may be fa­mously laid back but if there’s one thing I learnt within my first few months in this sun-drenched lucky coun­try, it’s that bar­bies here are no laugh­ing mat­ter.

Nav­i­gat­ing the tricky so­cial eti­quette of the rit­u­al­is­tic burn­ing of meat and drink­ing of an esky full of cold ones re­quires a lit­tle time and a lot of ex­pla­na­tion for Pom­mie new­bies. Amer­ica has its debu­tante balls, Bri­tain has its class sys­tem. The Aussies have their own com­plex so­cial strata — the cook­ing and shar­ing of meat. Don’t be fooled. It’s a so­cial oc­ca­sion that has as much pomp associated with it as a royal ball, even though on the out­side it all ap­pears very ca­sual.

As the weather heats up, smoke can be seen ris­ing from sub­ur­ban back­yards as mul­ti­ple four-wheel-drives park on the front lawn and fam­i­lies pile out armed with the re­quired one salad, one dessert, meat and a slab.

Rule No.1 is that the bar­be­cue is com­pletely, to­tally and ut­terly the do­main of the host. Even if he’s called up to bat in the rau­cous game of back­yard cricket, rest as­sured he’ll have one eye on the ball and the other firmly on his snags.

And don’t think that if you de­cide to play host your­self that one of those Bri­tish-style dis­pos­able sil­ver trays and char­coal things will do — it needs to be big and gas-pow­ered if you are to be truly re­spected by your new mates.

Do not, un­der any cir­cum­stances, take home any booze you have left over at the end of the evening. That stays in the host’s esky and will help re­fill his out­door fridge.

When in­vited to such a gath­er­ing, the host will in­evitably say “oh, don’t bother bring­ing any­thing”. Again, don’t be fooled. You must, at a min­i­mum, bring your own meat — and don’t even think about that sweet soy-mar­i­nated fancy pants stuff. There’s noth­ing wrong with a plain old sausage. It’s also BYO grog, plus a cou­ple of ex­tras. As for dress code, leave the ball gowns at home. Your out­fit should match your best pair of thongs. If you know the host well, you can for­get footwear al­to­gether.

But the most im­por­tant rule is this: at a truly Aussie bar­be­cue, it’s a case of the more the mer­rier so as the host, al­ways in­vite some­one you don’t know too well to share the ex­pe­ri­ence. That’s what makes this coun­try one of the friendli­est and best places in the world.

Laura Newell

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