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