Do you love or hate BBQs? Our columnist explains why he loathes them
- Credit: PA
As we move into May, we might just be about to leave last week's snow flurries behind us, with forecasts of temperatures reaching the giddy heights of 20C this weekend.
Aside from the tragic hope-over-experience belief that the weathermen have any clue what it's going to do in two hours' time, let alone two days', the promise of a sunny weekend will bring out one of the worst things about British food: the barbecue.
I am a huge fan of alfresco dining.
Nothing is more pleasant than sitting outside eating a lovely meal, with a glass or two of something rosé chilling in an ice bucket. I will spend much of the summer doing just that, insofar as we get an actual summer.
My question is this: when we all now have kitchens packed to the gunwhales with the latest cooking technology, why do we think it necessary to cook food on a primitive, unreliable, very probably not-cleaned-since-last-year barbecue?
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Why this excitement about undercooked but at the same time burned sausages? Why do we look forward so much to burgers – often in reality mechanically-recovered meat scraps minced to disguise their disgusting origins – when for the rest of the year we salivate over prime cuts cooked over a perfectly adequate hob?
I loathe barbecues. Either everyone has to eat at different times as each piece of food is removed from the grill just short of carbonised, or else it is 'held' while the rest of it is cooked, which means it is little more than lukewarm when you finally get to eat it, usually encased in the kind of pappy bread roll that you wouldn't feed to a duck.
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And inevitably, it is the person in the family who never cooks except at barbecue time who is entrusted with the cooking. It's like asking the hospital cleaner to carry out your heart surgery, in a field, after they have consumed several cans of strong lager. Why would you?
Right about now, supermarkets up and down the country are preparing special 'barbecue packs' of meat – for which read cheap and nasty pieces of gristle-ridden off-cuts that have been hanging around in their freezers all winter, but which they know they can shift to gullible Brits just because the sun has come out for 10 minutes.
And aside from the fact that barbecue food never actually tastes nice, let's not forget that you are pretty likely to get food poisoning from undercooked chicken, and/or cancer from evil carcinogenic burnt meat. Not to mention a hacking cough from inhaling all that smoke.
It's interesting that most countries which actually have a decent summer, complete with sunshine, have nothing to do with barbecues. Cook inside, eat outside – that should be your summer motto.
THE NAKED CHEF...
News reaches us that more than 30,000 people have put themselves on a waiting list to dine at London's latest proposed pop-up restaurant.
I'm not quite sure where they are going to put their credit card, though, because Bunyadi will be the capital's first establishment where diners are not expected to wear any clothes.
Now, as something of a greedy man, I am self-aware enough to know that my body is not something I should be afflicting on perfect strangers, particularly not while they are trying to eat. I have put on weight since the rather old photo at the top of this page was taken.
To achieve the kind of body which people might find remotely alluring would require me to eat minimally, which surely misses the whole point of going to a restaurant.
Now at this point you are probably expecting me to regale you with a list of dishes you wouldn't want to see in a naked restaurant, such as Coq au Vin, melons and saveloy, but that would be cheap, so I won't.
If you need a reason to give this latest gimmick a miss, just think of this: you know how annoying it is when you drop a hot morsel of food in your lap and make a mess of your napkin. Now imagine the consequences of doing that in a naturist restaurant. Scorched prairie oysters, anyone?