“We don’t have the weather in this country”
“I’d BBQ more if I could guarantee the weather”
“What happens to your events if it rains?”
These are just 3 statements that popped in my mind as I write this blog. I have to say I think journalists have a lot to answer for with this particular topic because it seems they recycle the same old sound bites come this time of year, and it’s unfortunate because they aren’t reflecting what’s happening in backyards up and down the country. Pick up most newspapers or magazines, turn to an article about BBQ’s and the same old cliche’s get wheeled out time again!
“Throw another shrimp on the barbie” also has a lot to answer for because subliminally we conjurer up this image of being on a beach (outside) in the summer (hot and sunny), cooking small food directly over the coals (grilling). There are no well known slogans for cooking your Sunday roast, Christmas turkey, or even dessert on your home BBQ, but why not. “If the weather’s no luck, BBQ a duck”? granted this one needs a little work…
The weather always comes in for a lot of blame and why we don’t cook outdoors more often, but if I think about trips I’ve had to Texas where BBQ is prolific, and the extreme heat and humidity during the Summer months doesn’t make me want to stand by a barbecue. For Texans though, and other BBQ cultures around the world BBQ is much more about sharing food than it is the cooking. If you look at brisket, nobody is there at 6am in the morning when the beef is going on the grill!
There are so many reasons to use our barbecues all year round, and aside from the adventurous element of cooking outdoors, I’d say one of the main reasons here in Britain is that we have the perfect climate for it. When you cook food on your BBQ, whether over direct or indirect heat, one of the main advantages is the damp humid air that is drawn inside the cook-box. We live in a green and pleasant land because it rains; there’s no getting away from it, and quite frankly I’d take green and lush over dry and arid any day of the week!
Traditional cooking habits suggest we use our ovens more in the Winter, and the hob more in the Summer. Another way of thinking about this is that we use Indirect heat more on wetter cooler days, and Direct heat when it’s warmer and sunnier. This is exactly how you should think about using your BBQ to get the most out of it!
To make using your BBQ second nature, you have to use it regularly. It’s like training a muscle in the gym, if you don’t use it, you loose it, and BBQ skills are exactly the same. The main reason we are so comfortable using the kitchen for cooking in this country is because we grow up in homes where our parents cook indoors and we have the opportunity to learn as we grew. This is exactly what happens with BBQ skills in countries like America, Canada, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, etc. It’s part of their culture, children grow up watching their parents doing it, and when they move into their own homes it’s just natural that they will buy a BBQ and start cooking in the back yard.
The really cool thing is that as we travel more, and as resources such as international cookbooks and YouTube become more prolific, the UK BBQ culture really is changing to one where we don’t have to hop a flight to Memphis in order to have great BBQ food. The twist I always try to put on my dishes is that instead of replicating typical American classics like ribs, pork and beef, we should be creating a UK BBQ identity and that put simply means cooking everyday British food outside on your BBQ. We have different cultural references and palettes, which is a really cool thing to reflect in your cooking at home on the BBQ.
I’ll leave you with a few quotes I usually mention during my events and a story that may provoke a different view on the weather.
“My top tip for cleaning your oven is to stop using it.”
“We have the perfect weather in Britain for using BBQ’s regularly.”
“There’s a different between Having a BBQ, and Using a BBQ.”
“You don’t invite people over at the weekend because you’re going to have an oven.”
A few years back I was setting up for a town food festival and granted the weather wasn’t promising. It was overcast, cold and breezy, but it was Lancashire! Mid setup a chap walked up to me and asked what I was doing, so I gave a brief overview of the demos we had planned for the day. His reply was quintessentially Lancastrian, or blunt, “it’s not really BBQ weather is it!” At this point I stopped what I was doing and decided to give him my full attention. As I did this I noticed he was stood before me holding a fairly substantial double scoop ice cream waffle cone, that he was quite intent on. “Not really ice cream weather is it, but I see that hasn’t stopped you” was my response, and that’s my point – Why do we allow journalists and marketeers so much influence over our activities that we feel we need a hot sunny day, with friends and family aplenty and a pile of red meat on the grill, in order to have a BBQ?
If you want to use your BBQ, go for it!
A BBQ is for Life, not just Sunshine 😉