Editor’s Comment: July 2019
PUBLISHED: 13:18 21 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:18 21 June 2019
“What is it that drives the otherwise sensible Englishman to cook on an open fire in the garden the minute the sun peeps out from behind the clouds?” In his latest editor’s letter, Mike Lowe discusses our unexpainable need for a BBQ as soon as the summer rolls around
It's a beautiful summer evening as I write this. The swallows are putting on a five-star air display, a pair of pigeons are circling the village looking for the cleanest car and our nearly-tame blackbirds stagger out of a bush coughing and spluttering as the evil, greasy smoke of a half-lit barbecue comes wafting over the garden wall.
What is it that drives the otherwise sensible Englishman to cook on an open fire in the garden the minute the sun peeps out from behind the clouds? Why is it suddenly a good idea to cook on primitive coals when we all have a perfectly serviceable cooker, specifically designed for the job, in our kitchens?
I suppose I've owned a dozen or so barbecues down the years, ranging from simple charcoal buckets to enormous gas-fired outdoor kitchens. The pattern is always the same. They're used once, maybe twice, and then stand rusting for a couple of years alongside the broken trampoline and the deflated inflatable Aldi hot tub before making their final journey to the tip.
Even when you've finally learned your lesson and foresworn any further purchases, the al fresco fiasco can't be completely avoided. "Oooh, isn't it a lovely day. I really fancy a barbecued sausage," says your wife. "But we haven't got a barbecue," you reply. "That hideously expensive big green egg thing went to landfill two summers ago." "Well just get one of those disposable things then."
Dear Lord, the ignomy. There are certain things that you do not want to be seen with at your local supermarket checkout. Alphabetti spaghetti, pile cream, turkey twizzlers, microwave omelettes… and disposable barbecues. So you drive a good 20 miles away to a superstore where you have less chance of being recognised and hand over your £3.50 in return for the cardboard box of despair.
Back home, you light it. Or rather you don't. The chemical sheet of accelerant flares briefly and then flickers out, leaving you staring at a foil tray of sullen black coals. Two firelighters, a can of lighter fluid and a box of England's Glory later, ignition is achieved. Now you wait for the coals to go white. And you wait. And you wait.
In the end you chuck the sausages on there anyway and spend 10 minutes dodging exploding fat while turning them with tongs. What you end up with is a barely edible blackened banger. Back in the kitchen, the George Foreman grill is quietly laughing to itself.
So apart from the fact that your food is either raw or incinerated, apart from the fact that everything tastes of petrol, apart from the fact that you could just as easily cook inside and still eat outside, have you ever stopped to consider the impact of mass barbecuing on the environment? Why on some Sunday afternoons your small Cotswold village ends up looking like a bad day in downtown Shanghai?
The Department of Environment are already after our wood-burning stoves. Barbecues will be next. Problem solved.
According to a survey (yes, I know) people in the Cotswolds spend more money on alcohol to drink at home than nearly anywhere else in Britain - an average of £211.97 a year.
This breaks down as £91.02 on wine, £46.89 on spirits and liqueurs, £45.47 on beer and lager, £13.82 on champagne and sparkling wine, £9.33 on cider and £0.69 on alcopops.
Now I'm no snob, but if you're that person who's spending 69p a year on alcopops, then you need to raise your game, mate. You're letting the area down.
It had come to my notice that for some strange reason, young men have stopped wearing socks despite wearing shoes. My first thought was doesn't it chafe? My second thought was perhaps they can't afford them (impoverished millennials and all that).
I'm therefore setting up a Crowdfunder to supply hosiery to hard-up hipsters. For just £3 a month, we can stop your daughter's boyfriend looking like a right prat.
For more from Mike, follow him on Twitter! @cotslifeeditor