Lighter Fluid and Lava Rock

It’s thirty degrees in the shade, I’m sweating so much even my man boobs have started to cry, weeping endless tears into my Sports Direct vest. The inside of my underwear is now frankly like a war zone, it’s just chaos down there, everything is just smashed together, I have to keep lunging just to bring some peace to the region.

In this oppressive heat what can you do? Stay inside drinking ice cold drinks and wait for the rain to come? No, that’s a stupid idea, what you need to do is have a barbecue.

So, you spend three hours, on the hottest day of the year, stood behind an actual fire. Its absolute madness isn’t it? It’s the food you’re meant to be cooking, not yourself. It makes no sense, it’s like having a Cornetto in a snowstorm.

The only time you enjoy a barbecue is when you are a guest at one. If you’re on that grill it’s a miserable afternoon. Everyone else is sat there on the decking, sipping beer and having a great time. Meanwhile you’re stood at the end of the garden, totally engulfed in smoke, eyes streaming like you’ve just been tear gassed.

Occasionally one of the guests will come and check on you to see how you are. You think they might be concerned for your welfare, but all they are interested in is when those sausages will be ready. You are just the staff to these people now. If this was the Titanic, they are in the ballroom and you are downstairs in front of a boiler, shovelling coal into the furnace.

The reality of a barbecue is never as good as the fantasy. In Australia they are so casual and relaxed about it. A barbecue for them just happens organically, because they have the weather. In Britain, all ours are done in a panic. As soon as the temperature creeps above twenty five degrees, we lose our minds. You can hear the rallying cry being carried on the breeze, “go get me some charcoal briquettes Susan, today is the day to set fire to some meat!”

But if you’re not in that supermarket in the next twenty minutes your barbecue dreams are crushed quicker than the garlic in your marinade. You had big ideas involving kebabs on skewers, Peri Peri chargrilled chicken, fresh shrimps and organic lamb steaks. Unfortunately, so did everyone else. Is there anything more depressing in life, than the sight of an empty meat isle in a supermarket? It’s like the end of the world’s worst game show.

Now you’re facing the prospect of having to feed a family of four on a six pack of sausages and some king prawns that a so passed their best before date they have started to grow beards.

There is so much prep to do a barbecue properly, some people get really into it. “I’ve been rubbing this meat all morning with infused chilli oil” –  “Cheers Kev, nice one, I thought you were cooking it not giving it a massage!”

But no matter what happens, there is only one rule. You cannot, under any circumstances, switch on that oven. That is like an athlete taking performance enhancing drugs, it’s cheating, and it would bring shame on your family. If the cavemen only had fire and they still managed, well so can you.

It’s that hunter gatherer instinct that makes having a barbecue so exciting. It connects us to our primal ancestors. The only difference is we didn’t have to hunt anything. Many of us didn’t even gather. We’re stood there in shorts and flip flops cooking meat we’ve had delivered from Asda, we haven’t had to go out at daybreak and spear a wildebeest.

It does tap into something in the male psyche though. Ask a man why he loves to barbecue and he even starts to talk like a Neanderthal. His eyes widen and he goes all monosyllabic. Ranting at you with his top off, whilst rubbing a honey and mustard glaze on his nipples, saying things like, “MEAT” “FIRE” “BEER” “FIRE!”

Men and women do tend to act differently at a barbecue. The women tend to congregate together, they are interested in each other, the garden is alive with excitable chatter.

The men are huddled together around the barbecue itself, with cans of lager, like tramps gathering around a burning barrel. Conversation is stilted and awkward, with many of the men hypnotised by that powerful combination of meat and flames. Occasionally someone will break the silence:

“I think it’s hot enough now Steve, if I were you, I’d pop another bag of coals on there.”

Traditionally it’s the man who likes to be in control of the barbecue. There is nothing more manly than standing there in your own garden, lager in hand, just casually poisoning the rest of the family.

The misconception that women can’t use one is ridiculous. In fact, they are often better at in than the men and the food they produce is actually edible.

The hygiene always worries me. You can never get that grill clean enough. The first ten minutes of any barbecue is spent burning off the remains of the last one.

It always amazes me, some restaurants have been closed down because of their poor food hygiene practices, yet on a summers day, I’ll gladly tuck into an undercooked burger, served by some Dad I hardly know, who’s stood there next to the bins, with his hand down his shorts.

Barbeque models are like cars, some people don’t really care as long as its practical, but others get really passionate about it. You can see the men eyeing up each other’s cooking stations, they can’t hide their jealousy. “Look at him with his triple burner, who does he think he is!” “Was that hotplate an optional extra?” “How many steaks to the gas bottle does it do pal?”

I’ve been to barbecues where the guy behind it has so much kit I’m surprised he didn’t have to employ roadies. It was like Iron Maiden on tour. Hundreds of utensils dangling from everywhere, tables for the raw meat, tables for the cooked meat, separate grills to cater for the vegetarians along with oils and rubs of every description. This man was like a conductor in his own meat-based orchestra. He even had a meat thermometer, presumably so he could check if his pork chops were a bit under the weather.

The designers of the barbecues have tapped into this too. Even the names of them are very masculine. They are called things like “Beefmaster” “Matador” they may as well just go all out and release a model called “The meat Bastard 3000”.

The most impressive display of barbecuing I have ever witnessed was on a holiday in Sidmouth in Devon. We were sat on the beach and a man in a wetsuit walked into the sea holding a fishing rod. Five minutes and he had reeled in about three fish. He then went back onto the beach, arranged some pebbles into a pit, brought out an old grill from his bag and proceeded to cook the fish in front of us. I was so in awe I was almost aroused. He was like an aquatic Ray Mears. They only way he could’ve been more manly was if he had emerged from that ocean with those fish between his teeth like a giant grizzly bear.

Sausages are always an issue for me. They are a logistical nightmare on the bars of that grill. I’ve never made it through a full cook off with all my sausages accounted for. They just seem to have a death wish those guys. And there is no trauma like seeing a sausage give up and fall through the bars into the abyss below. This must be how a child feels when the top of their ice cream falls off, or they let go of a new helium balloon at the fair. There is nothing you can do to rescue that fallen comrade. It had so much potential, it was ninety five percent pork, but now it’s just one hundred percent ash. It looks like something found in the ruins of Pompei after the volcano erupted.

You can try and recover it, but it’s over. Because let’s be honest, there is nothing bleaker in life than having to rinse your sausage under an outside tap in front of your family.

Scott Bennett Comedian

www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

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barbecues, comedy, heatwaves, Humour, Scott Bennett

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