Great Britain

I don't want to have a barbecue. Not even a lockdown one | Adrian Chiles


h joy, we can have barbecues again. What a disappointment; I’ve never much enjoyed them. I think it’s partly because they’re regarded as a universally good thing, a real treat that must be enjoyed. It’s like the pantomime. My nan and Auntie Marj took me to the one at the Hippodrome in Birmingham every year, assuming it made my Christmas. May God rest their souls, and forgive me my ingratitude, but I always hated the bloody things. 

Barbecues have so much not to commend them. We don’t have a reliable enough climate, for a start. As with those other summer pastimes – cricket and lawn tennis, which we happened to invent – the UK doesn’t have the weather for barbecuing. So much uncertainly prevails. In the old days, before gas barbecues, the preparation of the charcoal was a decidedly uncertain business, too. Still ringing in my ears are the bollockings my mum gave my dad for not getting the thing burning quickly enough, or indeed at all. Then gas came along, which is more reliable but in my view renders the whole thing pointless. Cooking food over charcoal has something going for it; cooking food over a line of gas flames resembling F-16 afterburners doesn’t.

Then there’s the food itself, which presents a problem for me, whatever its quality. If it’s bad, it’s bad. There’s a very thin line between what is artfully charred and what is simply burnt. If it’s good, then, however good it is, there is always too much of it, and I can’t see food go to waste. Actually, I can’t bear to see food thrown away even if it’s bad.

All barbecues end the same way for me: I sit there in a light drizzle under darkening skies sipping warm beer. Having overeaten to a gruesome extent, there’s grease all around my mouth and a creaking sound emanating from the region of my distended belly as it strains against my belt. Please, no more. 

• Adrian Chiles is a Guardian columnist

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