Aaaaaaand yesterday’s column pasted below… I’ve got a few more bits and pieces to put up as am behind BUT I’ve got to wash my hair ahead of an exciting trip into Harper Collins tonight so you’ll have to wait. Sorry.
Granted it hasn’t been the best week for it, but we’re discussing barbecues today because I’ve been worrying for some time about barbecue discrimination. You heard me. For several summers, an insidious undercurrent of bias has been developing on the British barbecue scene and I blame the green egg entirely. Or, to use its proper name, because we mustn’t shy from calling out the dark forces at work in this country, the Big Green Egg.
You may be blissfully unaware of the green egg’s creeping dominance. ‘Green egg?’ you may be thinking. ‘What’s she on about now?’
It’s an extremely posh, expensive barbecue with a green ceramic, egg-shaped shell and people get very silly about them. ‘You must come over for lunch, we’ve just got a green egg!’ they say, which is odd, because you’d never say that about a cooker, would you? ‘Do come and have supper, we’ve just got a Zanussi 3000!’ If you thought those characters who banged on about their Nespresso machines were boring, the green egg apparatchiks are another level entirely.
The eggs cost a couple of grand and you can buy bags of flavoured woodchips should you wish your sausage to come tasting of pecan or hickory. The real zealots will wang on about their temperature control and spread of heat, and how they cook anything – ‘Can you believe I did a whole chicken on it last Saturday!’ – but, honestly, don’t get stuck with them for too long because you’ll want to spatchcock your own eardrums.
Easy, showy-offy barbecuing isn’t the point. We put on jerseys and gather in the garden to spend three hours blackening a drumstick that still gives us salmonella because that’s the ritual. We drink 26 bottles of rosé while whoever’s manning the barbecue bleats constant updates – ‘I think the burgers are nearly done!’ They’re not nearly done. They’re still as pink as your pancreas in the middle. But never mind. Shove it in a bap with some ketchup and get it down. By dusk, your wine glasses are smeared with greasy fingerprints and the table is littered with Magnum wrappers but at least you’ve made a day of it.
How should we behave if the cooking process is more efficient than this? The green egg has made barbecuing a competitive sport. Charred asparagus and halloumi were the first signs we were losing it. But I went to my friend Hugo’s house last weekend and he spent approximately seven minutes expertly flicking his Weber spatula about before presenting me with a barbecued scallop. A scallop! On a barbecue! What is to become of us? We’ll be saying g’day and wearing flip-flops to the office next.
Heston Blumenthal discussed barbecues in an interview last month and made several dangerous suggestions in it. ‘You can do desserts on the barbecue,’ he claimed, before going on in the same, frankly irresponsible vein. ‘You can do a paella or a risotto, and just let the smoke sort of waft over the top, until the flames and the smoke lick the food.’ It’s not good, all this talk of licking and wafting. Coking risotto on a barbecue is a subversive idea which must be stamped out, which why I wouldn’t mind if it carried on raining for a few days. Our barbecue passions are running too high. Let them be dampened a while longer.
On no account ask the Turkish president to be your best man, even if you’re friendless, brotherless and are considering asking your mum to do the honours. President Erdogan stepped up to the role last weekend at the wedding of his chum Mesut Ozil, the Turkish midfielder for Arsenal. He then used his speech to warn the congregation about the dangers of contraception, urging the newlyweds’ guests to have ‘at least’ three children, before adding ‘four brings richness, the rest remains to God.’ Family planning advice at a wedding is a bit of a buzzkill, Mr President, what was wrong with a little joke about the stag party instead?
Embarrassing, having your card declined. Even if it’s the bank’s fault, some technical glitch, one becomes flustered and apologetic. It happened in Bath recently to Marco Pierre White’s son, the creatively-named Marco Pierre White Jr. After a £27 breakfast, his card was declined so he told staff ‘I am Marco Pierre White’s son!’ before fleeing in a car, having still not paid it. (Jr, one imagines, would make a poor bank robber if he goes around shouting about who he is). I once worked in a Chelsea shop, the General Trading Company, and always maintained a sympathetic face whenever the Coutts cards of smart shoppers were turned down. ‘Oh goodness me, I’m so sorry, it must be because we’re having our kitchen done,’ was my favourite ever excuse.