Man and Fire

Some men play golf. Some men play football. Some men fish and some men play piano. But all men BBQ. And I mean all men. I suspect that this is something hardwired in to our DNA. A hark back to our days in the cave perhaps? In the face of women becoming ever more equal, man’s hunter gatherer instincts remain very much intact and nowhere is this better demonstrated than when meat needs to be cooked in the garden.

Salads and anything else to accompany this scorched meat is prepared inside the house and remains the preserve of the female of our species. And to complete this cliché, the man on ‘meat’ duty should stand with a beer in hand as other men gather around the fire and marvel at the cooking scene before them. No man has ever stared at on oven while a Sunday joint roasts away but man will stand happily staring at a BBQ. At this juncture, some men might offer their help. Even suggest that they take over the flipping, turning and rotating for a while but such kind offers are always rejected. No self-respecting man will ever give up his meat burning duties at his own BBQ. ‘Thanks pal, but no thanks, I’m fine. This is my house and my BBQ. You’ve got more chance getting hold of my wife than you have my tongs.’

And this annual ritual of male bonding is not undermined at all by the ease of modern day BBQing. Few of us hunt our own food these days, unless we go to one of those massive hangar like supermarkets where it is so easy to get lost and hunting for the right aisle is an accurate description. And there is no need for flints and kindling anymore to create the magic of fire. Now we have gas bottles and ignition switches which mostly work, for the first season at least. Beyond this, it really depends on whether the BBQ can be squeezed in to the shed for the winter.

My BBQ is old. Ten years at least and like my Azaleas, it remains outside all-year round. It did come with a fabric weatherproof cover but this has long since disintegrated, so now a box of matches are needed to get the old thing fired up which is not much a hardship unless the last person to use them has not put them back in their designated place.

And men will continue to BBQ because we love it. It signifies summer and the carefree lifestyle we all hanker for. It is not however for the taste of the food. The greatest irony of the BBQ is that food for the Barbie already comes pre-flavoured or marinaded with the BBQ taste and so could just as easily be cooked in the house.

But this is to miss the point. Cooking inside is bland and boring. Cooking outside is always fun and always exciting. It can rain. Undeterred, all men have stood under a brolly next to their steaming BBQ. And food can burn. In fact, food is supposed to burn. It’s all part of it. Food can burn to a point of not being recognisable. Which is funny itself and even more so when someone approaches with an empty plate and utters these immortal words;

‘Could I have the vegetarian sausages please?’

Oh, come on. That’s funny. And if not at the time then definitely after the guests have gone home.

You see, BBQ’s complete our summer. Like Wimbledon and strawberries, whatever the weather, they will always be there. BBQ’s are summer and summers are what we often remember as the best days of our lives.


‘Dominic Holland has written this piece in collaboration with Littlewoods, on their gas BBQ ranges.’


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