Stephen Jardine: Rain or shine, the BBQ will go on…
I’M WRITING this week’s column looking out of the window at light drizzle. So far this summer has been perfect for umbrella manufacturers, but less good for fans of alfresco eating.
You know the type. They are the first to buy barbecues when they go on sale in the garden centre just after the Christmas lights have been taken down. These people are life’s optimists. They choose to believe the adverts showing happy families munching sweetcorn in sun-drenched back gardens.
The reality is usually a sausage tasting of petrol incinerated under a golf umbrella while your nearest and dearest shelter inside and complain about the cold. It happens every year, but still the barbecue optimists keep coming back for more.
This year they have a special focus. Next weekend’s Taste of Edinburgh food festival incorporates a national barbecue competition. And you thought “brave” was just the name of the new Pixar film? Hopefully the sun will shine and we will discover a talent for barbecues we never knew we had, but something tells me there is a reason why Scottish BBQ champions are thin on the ground.
Food writer Sue Lawrence thinks it comes down to genes. “My heart sinks when we receive an invitation to a barbecue”, she says. “It’s just not something we are good at. We do slow foods like soups and stews and casseroles. The whole sudden heat, flame fry thing is just not in our blood”. But that doesn’t stop us.
Every weekend in summer, regardless of the weather, someone somewhere in Scotland will be having a barbecue. In recent years, sales of the cheap disposable tray barbecues have jumped more than 15 per cent and many local authorities have had to introduce restrictions on their use in public parks to prevent accidents and scorched grass. Despite that, the distinctive smell hangs over every green public space when the sun does put in an appearance.
During the brief hot spell earlier this year, a major supermarket chain estimated they’d sold nearly a million extra sausages over a weekend. Most of them would be destined for the barbecue grill – when it comes to what we cook outside, we like to play safe.
While Jamie is rustling up stuffed sea bass on his outdoor grill, in Scotland our idea of adventure is to throw a burger on beside the sausage. The food always seems to come well down the checklist after cold beer, chilled rosé and good music. That’s a shame because at this time of year, our produce really lends itself to the barbeque. Mackerel is at its peak season in July, and langoustines and Scottish lamb provide other great alternatives to the boring burnt banger.
Next weekend’s BBQ championships represent the best chance to challenge that attitude. So let’s hope for great food and even better weather – but pack a waterproof just in case.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: East