A recent short story I read by a Filipino writer amused me with its description of the barbecue as if it were some solemn religious rite. It rang bells. Certainly, in my world, it is an opportunity for the Australian male to pose, dressed in sturdy, masculine apron or a tasteless novelty number, armed with tongs and beer, making an event out of cooking a few chops, the High Priest of the Barbecue. It is a Boy Thing, far more significant and important than merely grilling a snag on the stove.
When we were kids, my own father owned a small tripod barbecue that had at some stage lost a leg, and was precariously balanced on a broomstick or some such thing for years. Heaven forbid he should invest in a new one; this one was ‘perfectly alright!’
Dad never really got to grips with that barbecue—he would fill it with a huge pyramid of wood, and flames would soar to the sky like a bonfire. A lack of patience—or possibly the whinging of four hungry kids—meant that he always threw the meat on before the flames had died down, and we would end up with charcoaled chops. For years, I never realized there was any other way, particularly as my mother’s regular contretemps with the grill inevitably produced similar results in the kitchen.
I remember relating this story to my sister-in-law, teasing Dad as we sipped wine by the sea, and he battled with the gas barbecue on the deck. He was getting decidedly huffy at the insult to his barbecuing prowess, as Ann and I giggled into our glasses.
“Lucky this one’s gas! No charcoal chops tonight!” Hahaha, snort…
Dad grumpily pushed the perfectly cooked steak to one side and humphed off in search of another beer. As he wombled away, his back to the barbecue, the fat dripped onto the open flame. A sudden flare shot up the sides of the grill and cremated the steaks. Ann and I shrieked and wept with laughter. Charcoaled chops again!
Written by Alexandra Gregori