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Barbecue: Man, Food and Fire

Barbecue: Man, Food and Fire

A semi-serious guide for how to get “terrible” results during your first summer barbecue

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The scent of myrtle and bay leaves, the smell of meat cooking over hot coals. And yet we’re not in a Santa Barbara backyard among avocados and grapefruit or in a rest area at Yellowstone National Park, neither are we in a cactus garden in Santa Fe or a Tennessee front porch.

We could actually be anywhere in the world – the Americas, Australia, Africa, or the Mediterranean – because cooking over an open fire is the first known way of preparing food: it’s what elevated mankind from a savage to a “civilized” state. Scents and smells, both inviting and non, permeate the pages of the Iliad, Homer’s epic poem from Ancient Greece. In the piazzas of the kingdoms of Sparta and Athens, with the participation of Gods and demi-Gods in the form of mortal men, tree trunks and huge piles of branches were set on fire during the lustful banquets celebrating victories, births, marriages, or to commemorate a returning hero or to honour the arrival or departure of a special guest.

During the war of Troy, Achilles would spear and skewer the meat of the young goats and sheep, of the well-fattened pigs that his coachman had already boiled, and roast them over a burning fire. Homer’s soldiers did the exact same thing. From those times, not much has changed from the original technique – except of course the technological improvements of today’s barbecues and the sophistication of its accessories.

The dangers of preparing food over fire have remained unchanged even in the 21st Century, and this means that one cannot be too careful and cannot pay too much attention to the cooking of the meat. Following is a semi-series set of rules for how to get “terrible” results during your first summer barbecue. Wherever you may be enjoying it.


1. During the winter months, rub the BBQ tools with flint stone and keep your guns and spears well-oiled until ready for use.

2. About ten days before you’re ready to barbeque, get ready for the hunt. The meat of wild animals tastes better if it’s been hung for a while, not less than a week.

3. In the days prior to your barbecue, begin your rain dance. Why mess around with coals when a lightning bolt can cook your chicken in an instant?

4. If the skies are impervious to your rain dances, wet the coals with alchohol and gasoline. Before setting it alight with a tiny match, make sure you have the number of the fire department handy.

5. Leave the meat unwatched on the fire for the entire cooking time: carbonization guaranteed!

6. Forget the chefs apron to protect yourself from grease splatters. You’ll make the dry-cleaner down the street very happy!

7. Favour flip-flops over closed-toe shoes. It will “spark” a warm friendship between your feet and falling embers from the grill.

8. Cleaning the grill after every use is utterly useless. As is any kind of maintenance.

9. Ask all your guests to bring something sweet. Desserts should always outnumber the main dishes.

10. The only thing men are really good at is burning fowl and beef on a grill. It’s a pleasure they must not be denied, and it’s not advisable to argue with them. That said, they must not be trusted with overseeing anything that happens elsewhere during the dinner. If they try to “help”, tell them to go back and tend to the fire. Otherwise, no guest will ever accept an invitation twice.

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