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The 11 inevitable stages of having a barbecue

Kate Lloyd

Barbecue season, eh? You're just getting drunk while playing with fire in your garden. What could go wrong?

1. The False Starts

You plan a barbecue. It pours with rain. You plan another barbecue. It pours with rain. You plan a third barbecue. This time it looks like the weather’s actually going to hold off. You start work on a complex beer-can-in-a-chicken’s-arse menu. It pours with rain again.

2. The Panic Barbecue Clean

An hour before guests arrive, you realise the barbecue hasn’t been cleaned since the Great Meat Feast of 2014. You spend the next 50 minutes scrubbing at flaky black grime before giving up and dashing to Wilko to buy as many disposables as you can carry. Later, a pal will find a chunk of last year’s burger meat in your hair and you’ll pretend it’s a bit of twig. 

3. The Last-Minute Marinade

You Google recipes to enhance your grilling game, then realise they all insist you marinade your meat in a multi-ingredient mixture for at least 72 hours. Time to overcompensate by mashing the entire contents of your spice rack into some chicken breasts. Yes, that hard lump of dark brown sugar, the ancient sorry crumbs of dried oregano, Worcestershire sauce, half a crushed Oxo cube and Mystery Powder #4. Possibly paprika?

4. The ‘Should I Bring Anything?’

There are three types of guests who bring things to barbecues:

1) People who bring items that show off their culinary prowess and advanced knowledge of London delis. ‘Oh, this artisan quinoa and olive bread? It’s just a quick little something I steamed for seven days and twice baked.’

2) People whose parents told them it was polite to bring things to barbecues but can’t really be bothered so bring Richmond sausages and own-brand crisps. Then tuck into your Kettle Chips.

3) Desperate vegetarians who know that if they don’t bring their own food, there’ll be nothing to eat.

Whichever way it goes, you’re sure to end up with 17 different types of bread roll, but zero condiments. Mmmm, dry. 

5. The Drunk Hour

As everyone waits for the barbecue to switch from ‘hellish inferno’ to ‘ideal temperature for cooking’, you stave off hunger pangs with beer. And punch. And shots. And then some more shots. Because nothing settles an empty stomach better than tequila. Maybe someone will do a terrible performance of Will Smith’s ‘Summertime’. Maybe someone else will throw up in a nearby bush. Until, finally, someone cracks and puts the meat on the barbecue.

6. The Barbecue Control Freak

As soon as the meat hits the fire, this pro steps up to the grill like a steely barbecue Batman. They probably have a utility belt of tongs hidden underneath their t-shirt. They are the One True Griller and will remain at the charcoal until darkness falls over Gotham. Backseat barbecuers who question their technique are shot down with ‘oh sorry, did that burger spit scalding fat in your face when I poked it?’

7. The Meat Stress

You fight for the first sausage, but when you get it panic sets in. Is it supposed to be pink inside? You dissect it. Does that mean it’s raw? You show it to someone else. Is this the future cause of my painful death? The rest of the meat is then cautiously overcooked until it crumbles into a pile of dry ash on your plate. You still eat three chicken drumsticks, two burgers, three chipolatas and a kebab. And every mouthful is declared so much better than boring oven meat.

© Léonie Kerr

8. The Meat Sweats

Your forehead gets sticky. Everything inside you is churning. You can’t move. Would it be rude to lie on the floor? You and your newly rotund stomach need to be at one with nature. Oh god, you’re so hot and full BUT STILL EATING.

9. The Contamination Crisis

Keen not to poison your guests, you try to follow all the relevant food safety guidelines. Then you realise you aren't sure what the food safety guidelines are. You contemplate the spatula you used to flip the raw sausages. Can you now use it to serve the cooked sausages? You think about all the other things that spatula touched and visualise bacteria doubling and doubling, over every surface. You reason that nobody ever got food poisoning from beer. Drink more beer.

10. The Cold Period

First the sun goes behind the clouds, then an icy wind starts to blow smoke in everyone’s faces. You huddle around the barbecue for warmth, but your eyes water. You hand out a selection of old slogan university hoodies that you won’t mind people accidentally taking home. Eventually you head inside and collapse on the sofa/bed/floor/any nearby soft furnishings. Someone sniffs their top and tells the room: ‘Eurgh, I’m so smoky.’ Everyone agrees and then has a little nap.

11. The Final BBQ Blitz

It’s 9pm and you’re hungry again. All the food is gone except the coleslaw. You venture outside in your slippers to poke the charcoal. It’s still medium warm. Someone remembers barbecuing bananas at Scouts. You try doing that. It’s horrible. Someone else suggests Mars bars. It’s semi-successful. Then frozen goods. Yoghurt? Cake? Wine? 

You order a pizza.

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