Since the never-reliable British summer has more or less finished, we get a couple of days of decent weather and everyone thinks “Indian summer, yay!”
And out comes that barbeque, you know, the one you bought with the full intention of cooking every meal outside for the last three months.
Now, I’m all in favour of al fresco dining, but there have to be rules.
Primary amongst these is;
Who Not To Invite.
In accordance with this, there follows a list of five types of people without whom a barbecue will have at least a chance of being successful.
1) The Cook. – Nobody minds a little constructive advice now and then, but there are ways that you should, and should not, deliver such wisdom.
Very few hosts are going to be thrilled to hear an aspiring bbq chef telling them that, “of course, it’s always better when you use fresh coriander in the marinade, we have a dear little man who gets ours I must give you his number.”
“Looks like you’re having a bit of trouble there mate. Why don’t you sit down and let the professionals have a go.” (this almost always delivered in an Australian accent.)
Nearly as bad is the bbq version of a “goalhanger” in schoolboy football, the enthusiastic advice-dispenser who hovers around you as you tend to the grill saying things like “Think those sausages could do with a turn old boy” and “I would have given that chicken a bit longer myself, but I’m sure you know what you’re doing”
It is, of course, completely against all the rules for the host to admit needing help at the grill, hence the use of phrases such as “Could you take over for a minute while I get a drink / go to the toilet / get the salad” At this point, you should disappear until the culinary crisis has passed, returning to triumphantly announce that food is now ready.
2} Vegans. – There is one advantage in having a vegan at your bbq. They will bring all their own food.
Initially this seems like a bit of a result. Until, that is, you realise that you have to quickly pop out to the nearest petrol station to buy one of those crappy disposable barbecue things.
This is because they will not eat anything cooked on yours, as you have had the audacity to cook meat on it. Even changing the top grill surface doesn’t always work – I have actually had a vegan inform me that “There are still meat juice fumes coming off the charcoal, I can’t eat that”
All this means that you have to choose between giving them the bloody awful tinfoil tray full of congealed, paraffin-soaked faux- wood briquets, and saying “Here you go, cook it yourself”, or go through a crash course in cooking non-food like tofu, veggie sausages, soya burgers, and something grey made of mung bean curd.
All of these abominations will, the instant they hit the grill, turn into the culinary equivalent of Polyfiller, sticking to every implement that you attempt to turn them over with and then falling through into the flaming chemical mass below, only succeeding in extinguishing it as they melt into a foul smelling, bubbling pool in the tray.
Let them eat salad, that’s what I say.
The obvious solution to the problem of vegans, as far as I can see, would be Douglas Adams’ creation of an animal that actually wants to be eaten.
3) The Pissed Couple. – We all know these two, they’re a great laugh when they’ve had a drink.
The trouble is, that’s all of the time.
In the pub it’s fine, they can knock pints over and spill wine over each other during giggling/necking sessions all they like.
But when they are the ones trampling your geraniums as they step out of the flowering borders buttoning their flies, or falling in the pond and trying to eat the goldfish, it isn’t quite so funny.
Having a great time. Bastards.
The problem is, everyone else thinks they’re the floorshow and starts egging them on to greater feats of inebriation,
“Go on Dave, challenge him to a drinking game”
“Down in one, down in one, down in one …”
How you deal with them, whether it’s catching them shagging in the kids’ bedroom, spraying each other with shaving foam in the bathroom, or simply falling asleep on/throwing up over/knocking themselves out on the toilet, will affect the atmosphere of the party so the best policy is often to just surreptitiously remove breakable items, and hope they pass out before too much damage is done.
4) Journeyman. – Never invite an old friend from a long way away, someone that none of your local mates know, who will, without any prompting whatsoever, launch into a three hour long discourse which will begin innocuously enough with a phrase like, “Didn’t have too bad a journey down, got on the old A61 at Harrogate and despite those new roadworks, you know (you don’t) the ones just off the A659…..” but will swell to such levels of staggering, brain-melting tedium, that you would gladly put white hot charcoal in your ears just to make it stop.
I think we all know the type.
There is no solution to this one, do not invite them, you have been warned.
4) The Hi-Fijacker. – Being the forward thinking and consummate host that you are, you will, of course, have put together a playlist of suitably party themed tunes to keep your guests entertained.
In the old days, that meant a towering pile of vinyl, stacked in order, guarded jealously by the host/house DJ and touched by visitors at their peril.
Nowadays, it’s not so simple.
There’s CDs, mp3s, smartphones, i-pods, anyone can come along and plug themselves into the stereo.
Ignoring for the moment (or more likely, ignoring completely) that this is probably me that I’m talking about, these people should be discouraged as forcefully as possible.
And last but definitely not least,
5) Children. – Yes, ok, I know that’s not going to be popular, but hear me out.
The smart thing to do in these situations, is to have two barbecues.
You have the friends with kids round early on, letting them run riot before there’s much in the way of food being cooked, you can play the Birdie Song without getting lynched, and there isn’t too much pissed swearing and filthy jokes.
When the little darlings have worn themselves out, depending on the size of your house, the number of kids/availability of babysitters etc, they can be waved off home with one, other, or both of their suitably sober parents, or tucked up in bed upstairs.
Then, and only then, may you proceed with what, if you follow these simple rules, might just prove to be a not utterly disastrous barbecue.
Except, of course it will bloody rain.