Stephen Jardine: My Road to Damascus moment about barbecues

The recent sunshine has finally won me over to delights of outdoor cooking, writes Stephen Jardine.

The recent sunshine has finally won me over to delights of outdoor cooking, writes Stephen Jardine.

Time to eat some humble pie. Four weeks ago, I consigned the great Scottish barbeque to the bin with the following words. “By June the rain has started and everything related to outdoor eating gets heavily discounted as the realisation dawns, well that’s it for another year.” What a difference a month makes. As the great Bruce Lee once said: “Mistakes are always forgivable, if you have the courage to admit them.”

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When it comes to barbeques, it turns out I was very, very wrong. At the root of my despair was a catalogue of miserable, soggy attempts to eat outdoors. So often you start the day with the best of intentions but end it huddled under an umbrella undercooking sausages surrounded by the smell of lighter fluid while your guests hide indoors near a radiator. Well, not this summer.

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As soon as I wrote the piece, the clouds cleared and the sun started splitting the sky. It’s been like that more or less ever since and the great Scottish barbeque has at last had a chance to shine.

Until now I couldn’t fathom why you would choose a rusty grill over a well-equipped, hygienic kitchen. The difference is sunshine. I’ve probably cooked and eaten outside more in the past four weeks than I have in the past four years and, at long last, I get the attraction. With the sun beating down, a barbeque fills the garden with the promising smell of great food to come. It also allows you to stay outside, sipping a wine or beer while you cook rather than becoming a martyr in the kitchen as everyone else enjoys the good weather.

Then there is the food itself. As the sunny days have turned into weeks, we’ve had time to become ambitious. Beyond the burgers and sausages, there are sardines to sear, steaks to sizzle and pineapples to pop on the coals with cinnamon and brown sugar.

Understandably, DIY centres report booming sales of barbeques and outdoor furniture but they are not the only ones experiencing a sunshine dividend. Ice-cream sellers are struggling to keep up with demand and gin sales are also said to be up as people enjoy long drinks in the sun. However the soft drinks market is facing a challenge.

Along with brewers, it is suffering because of a European shortage of carbon dioxide. CO2 production problems forced pub chain JD Wetherspoon to suspend some beer sales while Coca-Cola is pausing some production. The situation is also affecting some food packaging and poultry and pig production.

Things are expected to get back to normal next week and, for those planning a barbeque with spare ribs, chicken legs and a cold beer, that can only be good news. In general terms this remarkable weather is good for most in the food and drink sector but spare a thought for Tesco staff in Devon who have had to cope with an influx of bare-chested, male customers. Following complaints from other customers, Tesco has now banned topless men from shopping in stores. A man in an inappropriate vest was also turned away. When it comes to barbeques, I’m now a convert and happy to admit I was wrong. But surely we can all agree, topless men in Tesco is never alright, regardless of the weather.

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