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Stephen Jardine: Barbecue week is a half-baked idea

Published: May 22, 2015

If you are sick and tired of this lousy weather, let me make things just a little worse with some very bad news. Monday marks the start of National Barbecue Week.
Now I can put up with yesterday’s National Vanilla Pudding Day and I’m actually looking forward to Thursday’s National Hamburger Day, but National BBQ Week is a celebration too far.
As if it’s not enough to live in a climate based on wind and rain, some bright spark believes we should spend the next week braving the elements just to burn our food.
People sometimes say, food always tastes better from the barbecue. No it doesn’t. In reality food always tastes slightly charred from the barbecue.
The National BBQ Week website underlines the gap between the absurd vision and grim reality. A whole page is devoted to answering questions concerning barbecue tips, ranging from marinades to grill temperature.
For us Scots, what might be more useful is some advice on what to do when the heavens open just as the sausages are turning black or how to cope when the wind is strong enough to actually lift the burgers off the grill.
That’s a vision that should be in the mind of everyone tempted by the necessary apparatus as they walk around a DIY store this afternoon. The walls are lined with pictures of happy couples grilling food in the sunshine.
What they need to remember is the reason they are buying a new barbecue is because the old one has rusted to bits in the incessant cold drizzle.
None of this would matter if the food on the plate was any good. However, the number one rule of barbecuing seems to be to give the job to the person least qualified. So although Fiona loves cooking and has a Cordon Bleu qualification to prove it, the person in charge of the grill tonight is husband Bob who has been on the sauvignon since 4pm and thinks ketchup makes a very good salad dressing.
Just to be clear, it’s not barbecues that are the problem. It’s Scottish barbecues.
From San Francisco to San Gimignano, I’ve enjoyed eating al fresco with great dishes cooked in unusual places. When the weather and circumstances are just right, eating outdoors is one of life’s great pleasures.
But we just don’t have the climate to be a barbecue nation which is why National BBQ Week is like rubbing salt into a wound. The whole thing smacks of being an Australian plot to emphasise how poor our climate is compared to life Down Under.
Well, good luck to them and their Neanderthal need to put meat to the fire. Over here we have developed something amazing called a kitchen. In it you can grill, roast, sear or bake food. If the weather is good you can then take that outside to eat in the garden. Or you can stay inside and stick the heating on to pretend it really is summer. Now that is something worth celebrating.

Stephen Jardine is a journalist and presenter and has previously worked for Scottish Television, GMTV and Radio Tay. He now writes a weekly food column for the Scotsman.

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