SUZANNE HARRINGTON: Bring on the summer — but don’t bring out the barbecue

BEFORE we start — and by we, I mean me the column and you the reader, not the royal we, unless I have undiagnosed sunstroke — a quick disclaimer. At the time of writing, it was summer, writes Suzanne Harrington

I am working on the assumption that it still is. Summer. All hot and bright and insanity inducing.

Which is great, no? Perks us right up. Plodding along in the damp grey fifty-one-and-a-half weeks of the year, wondering if we are still actually alive, and a blast of solar power transforms us into shorts-wearing, toe-baring, ice-cream slurping, park-undressing, skin-burning creatures laughed at by countries who know how to do summer properly. The Spanish call us gambas — prawns — on account of our willingness to self-immolate on their beaches, like prawns voluntarily hurling themselves onto the barbecue, marinaded in lager, and a dangerously low SPF. We don’t care. We love it.

And then we ruin it. The worst sound of summer is not the screams of drunken sunbathers awakening with second degree burns, but that horrible squeak of a rusting cobwebby barbecue being wheeled out, because it’s summer and we are obliged by law to incinerate our food outdoors. But why? Why would anyone want to do that? With a well equipped kitchen mere yards from your garden, why would you want to do major cooking outside on a wonky smoky apparatus that absolutely nobody knows how to use properly?

Oh but food tastes so much nicer outside, clamours everyone immediately. Yes. Of course it does. Eaten outside, not cooked outside, unless you are camping, which is obviously completely different. Cooked in your back garden, by a tongs-wielding individual besieged by sudden onset culinary manspreading — the same individual who could not normally find their own fridge — is a flame grilled recipe for botulism and divorce. Salmonella in a leaky napkin. With a floppy bun and raw cabbage suffocating in mayonnaise on the side. Mmmmm.

Your guests, although initially game, will soon be looking sweaty and uncomfortable with mustard and melted grease running down their chin, wishing they didn’t have to denote ‘informal’ by drinking beer from the bottle and wondering how soon it would be polite to slope off and have a nice sit down in their own garden.

And coleslaw. Did I mention coleslaw? Who invented THAT?

There’s no need to ruin our precious, fleeting summer with barbecues.

Honestly, it’s okay not to have one. If you need a mating ritual to pep up a tired marriage, perhaps try swinging instead? Less chance of food poisoning. Or have a cool, civilised picnic, far from your garden in deepest countryside, all blankets spread on the grass, wicker baskets, and chilled drinks — out of proper glasses, thanks — and food you can eat without smearing all over your face. Lie back, and luxuriate in the peaceful hum of wasps.

Bring on the summer — but don’t bring out the barbecue


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