Aussie barbie culture can snag many a Pommie newcomer
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.