There was a time when, hearing the words ‘you are invited to a barbie’ would make me physically cringe. It’s got nothing to do with not being True Blue, nor is it about snobbery. What it conjured up in my mind was images of steak sacrificed at the altar of Weber, with all it’s juices cooked out and ending up as tough as old boots; chops – which have no meat on them at the best of times – grilled to this black lump on a bone, and sausages so charred and blackened that given a blind taste test, you would have said they were charcoal flavour. In fact, if asked what flavour any sort of supermarket sausages – where they ALWAYS came from – were, you would have had to say ‘tomato sauce’, as that was the only way they would ever have had any flavour.
This was not my idea of fun eating, and is really a terrible thing to do with good food. I’ve never quite got my head around the whole concept of an inedible meal, served up with a bland salad of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber (yawns!) and bread rolls that had been too long in the sun and buttered from this pool of yellow sludge– all captured on a flimsy cardboard plate balanced on your knee. No wonder the dog got a good feed! If you weren’t sneaking it to him to avoid eating it yourself, the same plate would quickly disintegrate as you tried to saw your way through the steak with plastic cutlery, giving the avaricious hound access to the whole meal – deliberate or not!
And what is it with these supposed “cooks” that as soon as they are standing in front of the six-burner-with-attached-wok-burner–and -rice cooker-and multitasking -processor-and-bull-castrating-device they suddenly consider themselves Heston Blumenthal – a not unlikely image considering the amount of smoke issuing from the cooking apparatus! Since when has sacrificing food been the domain of professional chefs! Yeah, right! Thank you…..NEVER! With tittie motif apron – an amusing item provided by said cooks children on Fathers Day – standing centre, waving and clacking tongs and a can of incendiary fuel to hand to get the flames high enough to singe eyebrows and sacrifice virgins! With a demonic gleam in his eye, he savagely throws meat offerings to Weber…and Weber is much pleased as it hisses and crackles in delight. The whole tableau is horrifying! For fuck sake…turn the flames down and COOK, not ruin the food!
Okay, I am a bit of a food snob, but I didn’t flog my arse off at TAFE, squeezing a 12-month course in commercial cooking into 6 months – usually starting at 7.00 in the morning – to see food ruined in the tradition of barbecuing. Thankfully, evidently enough people got sick of it to see it turned in to a new form of cuisine, raising the bar and making the great Aussie barbecue a tradition to be proud of, instead of shunned and delegated to the world of beer swilling and football.
When we went to buy our current barbecue I had an exact type snd size in mind. I am not – obviously – a great advocate of this style of cooking, so wanted just a small, single burner with a plate and grill section…in red! As I was perusing the perfect one for my needs, the mother-in-law…who was paying for it…kept dragging me around to all these unnecessarily large, grey models insisting that they were what I needed. I won that battle – a rare occurrence – and it has, so far, served me well.
For those who have not as yet discovered the world of gourmet barbequing, of aromatic rubs and spicy pastes, gourmet sausages and butcher-prepared treats…we are forever changing the face of the good old fashioned Aussie barbecue. And I give thanks