The barbecue: bastion of male pride, dominance, status and virility.
Females are only allowed within 10 feet in order to bring over the charcoal, pass the matches, hand over the meat, the tongs, the plates, the rolls, the beer and to occasionally rub her man’s shoulders and tell him what an amazing job he’s doing.
At least that’s what seems to happen in American movies and TV shows.
And as for Australians, we’re left with the impression the BBQ is quite possibly the only way they know how to cook anything. “Broccoli and Stilton soup? Throw it on the Barbie, sport!”
But while I can easily imagine the likes of Jeff, from Big Dawg Tales, heaving half a steer on - probably road kill from a trip out on his Harley – in the Ayres household, it’s an altogether more subdued affair.
Somehow a 2-for-£5 disposable barbecue doesn’t quite have the same impact. With a tray size of about 8x10 inches, and an area actually hot enough to cook only the size of a postcard, it took a while to grill a handful of vegetarian sausages (we didn’t dare risk food poisoning from undercooked meat). After which there was barely enough heat left to vaguely warm some slices of halloumi cheese.
Still, Maggie did her best. As well as sorting out salad, tortilla chips, dressings and sauces, drinks and some slow-fried onions she’d done on the cooker in the house, she passed me the matches, handed over the sausages, the tongs, the plates, the rolls, the beer and occasionally rubbed my shoulders and told me what an amazing job I was doing.
Fortunately the kids don’t yet have a wide enough experience of BBQs to know any different, so they just enjoyed eating out in the garden.
Even if everything did taste slightly of paraffin.