Western Daily Press - - Opinion - DEB­BIE RUNDLE

THIS year was def­i­nitely the sum­mer of the bar­be­cue – and at the risk of sound­ing a killjoy, I’ve never re­ally ‘ got’ bar­be­cues.

There’s the whole rit­ual whether it’s ba­sic camp­fire-type cook­ing or state-of-the-art mon­ster grills with more con­trols than the in­ter­na­tional space sta­tion.

You have to plan well in ad­vance – maybe that’s why I fail – from check­ing what the weather might be like two weeks on Satur­day to start­ing the cook­ing process hours be­fore you plan to eat.

As we all know, our weather is a fickle beast. The phone app may pre­dict blaz­ing sun and blue skies but, deep down, you know that while this ap­plies to 99.5 per cent of the na­tion, it does not cover your own lit­tle patch of the West Coun­try.

You might as well rely on the bit of sea­weed hang­ing by the back door (if damp it’s rain­ing) or whether the cows in the lo­cal field are stand­ing up or sit­ting down. In­evitably, ten are on all four legs while the other ten are ly­ing down.

I ad­mit, this sum­mer has been the ex­cep­tion to the rule. We re­ally have been con­fi­dent that the weather will be dry and fine, so all the usual ex­cuses for not hav­ing a bar­be­cue have been blown out of the wa­ter.

It’s been a year when I have silently prayed for rain and a tra­di­tional washout of any non­sen­si­cal out­door eat­ing that in­volves bags of char­coal, fire­lighters, grubby grills and tepid coleslaw.

We were fool­ish enough to in­vest in a new­fan­gled bar­be­cue a cou­ple of years ago and, up to now, each bit of charred meat has cost us about £40 a pop on a cost­ben­e­fit ra­tio.

It has been sit­ting on the pav­ing shrouded in wa­ter­proofs – much like its own­ers. But when the sun did fi­nally come out in June, so did the bar­be­cue.

And I must ad­mit that thanks to the su­pe­rior culi­nary skills of Mr R, we en­joyed some pretty good meals. Luck­ily we both agreed not to run the gaunt­let of wasps, midges and other bitey/stingy nas­ties and dine in­doors with the win­dows open.

Un­for­tu­nately, the weather meant that we were ex­pected to en­joy other peo­ple’s bar­be­cues. If hell is other peo­ple, as Sartre as­serted, even more hellish is other peo­ple’s bar­be­cues.

First, there’s the man in charge rule that seems to ap­ply in some house­holds – the man who would never think of boil­ing an egg is sud­denly put in charge of prime beef, free-range chicken and hugely over­priced seafood. And he’s usu­ally beet­root-faced af­ter tend­ing hot coals with a litre of G&T to hand.

Hon­estly, would any­one in their right mind go to a restau­rant for a meal cooked by a drunken chef spe­cial­is­ing in Sal­monella Sur­prise.

This per­son has the power to change lives for the worse by serv­ing up steak that’s burned to a crisp and chicken that’s as rare as the beef should have been.

Sausages? Please don’t even go there. They end up black on the out­side and a Ger­mo­lene pink in­side, with more bouncy bits than the aver­age tram­po­line park. I stick to the mus­tard and a sud­den con­ver­sion to ve­g­an­ism.

The wave of an­i­mal obe­sity in this coun­try is prob­a­bly down to the fact that the only sen­tient be­ings that ac­tu­ally eat bar­be­cue food ex­ist on Pedi­gree Chum (other brands are avail­able) for 11 months of the year.

I blame Amer­i­cans for in­tro­duc­ing us to this type of al fresco din­ing. As a na­tion, we lived quite hap­pily on af­ter­noon tea in the gar­den for gen­er­a­tions. This tra­di­tion took place at a civilised hour, sat­is­fied our ap­petite for a de­cent cuppa and a slice of cake and in­volved no raw meat. A blood­free sport.

Maybe, just maybe, we will all ditch the blood, sweat and tears of the bar­be­cue for the retro de­lights of a cu­cum­ber sand­wich and Vic­to­ria sponge. More tea vicar?

It’s been a year when I have silently prayed

for rain and a tra­di­tional washout

of any non­sen­si­cal out­door eat­ing that

in­volves bags of char­coal, fire­lighters, grubby grills and

tepid coleslaw

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