It may only be spring but I really can’t wait for summer at the moment; and that’s because I can’t wait to start attending some barbecues or holding a few of my own. It’s not that you can’t have a barbecue in spring if the mood strikes you, but it just doesn’t seem like we’ll be getting the weather for it anytime soon here in the UK. A few weeks ago we were going to have a barbecue at a friend’s house since it was quite a sunny day, but when we were just about to get started setting up it began to rain. We ended up having a good time cooking inside anyway, but you can’t really beat grilling up some mouth-watering meat on the barbie and that’s usually something we tend to have a lot more luck with in the summer.
What makes us love a good sizzler on the barbecue so much though? What made my passion for barbecues grow so that I’m now writing blog posts on them? It’s more than just cooking some tasty meat, or more often burning it so it becomes little more than a cinder. There is something deeply ingrained in human nature that makes us love a good barbecue, and that’s something that began a long time before the advent of modern grills equipped with all those shiny knobs and thermometers.
The fire is arguably one of the most important discoveries that mankind has ever made. Back when we were still living in caves, hunting for our own food and clinging on to a life where danger was around every corner, the fire provided a source of warmth and food. The campfire would be the centre of life, with tribes gathering around open campfires and people tasked with keeping the flames alive. The hunters would bring back fresh kills and roast them on the fire, while people gathered around for warmth and to share stories. Fire kept people alive, it kept people fed and from freezing to death. Even today fire is important when out in the wilderness, and billions of people across the world still depend on fire to survive; whether that be the family keeping warm by a fireplace in Norway, or a tribe in Zambia cooking up some dinner.
Holding a barbecue in your back garden may not seem like it can connect to a source of survival, but the roots are very much apparent. Sausages from the supermarket may now be a large part of bbq and grilling but a social gathering around a source of warmth and food has its connections with the prehistoric era. It has become an act that connects us with the roots of our very existence, and teaches us that even with all the flash and pomp of our modern civilisation will still retain some semblance of our nomadic roots.
Getting away from the history though, the barbecue is loved simply because it’s an excuse to have a good time. With all the bad things going on in the world today, with the economy getting knocked for six what seems like every day and prices going up on nearly everything it’s just a time to kick back and relax. It’s a chance to have some food, no matter how well it’s cooked, with a few beers and some good conversations with your family and friends. I remember having a barbecue for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and it was fantastic to see everyone come together to celebrate our country and have some good old fashioned British fun. Even when the weather turned chilly we didn’t let it spoil the party, but I suppose that just sums up the UK for you!
In the next few months I’m hoping that we can get hold of our own barbecue to set up in our new home. I’m looking forward to trying out some new recipes and testing them on my friends and family (sorry!) before sharing the results with you here. Cooking on the barbecue is a pretty simple affair, but there’s still a myriad of things you can cook on it; such as pork, beef, fish and even fruit in a variety of endless ways. Fingers crossed we get the weather for it, so we can take part in this thoroughly human – and increasingly British – pastime.
Some good further reading, although US centric, is Salon’s ‘What’s behind America’s love of barbecue?’ that has some great information for a History geek like myself.