WHAT is it about cooking over an open fire that brings out a quality in men that’s part Neanderthal, part domestic goddess?
You know – guys who would never dream of going near the kitchen cooker but are happy to stand behind a flaming grill in the open air for hours, lovingly pricking sausages and doing their Nigella Lawson impression at that great summer ritual – the barbecue.
Meet Barbie Man, a species prevalent at this time of year.
Maybe it’s the association with fire and raw meat that brings out their primeval instincts…although it no longer requires hunting or gathering, merely the ability to drive to the supermarket and brandish the correct credit card.
But what a performance! When men are in control of a shopping trolley they seem to be driven by an urge to feed the Third World. “Yeah Paul, sling in that side of pork.” “Hey, John, this steak looks great too.” “Mike, grab some of those pinchitos and don’t forget the chicken wings.”
A detour to the garden centre may also be necessary for sacks of charcoal and the latest shiny-new, hideously-expensive outdoor cooking appliance. The chief cook may also wish to purchase, at this stage, an authentic chef’s hat and silly apron.
The establishment of a base camp (if you’re bbq-ing in the countryside) is a territorial affair involving the strategic parking of cars and positioning of tables and chairs to mark boundaries, and woe betide any intruders who attempt to encroach on the chosen site.
The ritual foraging for firewood is also a very male thing. Off goes Barbie Man and his chums into the bushes, waving a cheery goodbye to the womenfolk who have been ordered to guard the camp and prepare the salad (a bit too girly an activity for a real Barbie Man). If there’s a pub en route, they may be some time as, despite the umpteen crates of beer and bottles of wine weighing down the car boot, half the fun is doing a bit of male bonding over a bevvy or three.
On their return, triumphant with their booty (a few damp logs and a lot of twigs), Barbie Man gets cooking while his acolytes stand around swilling beer and cracking jokes. Wives and girlfriends should in no circumstances interfere by suggesting that the steak has caught fire or that the chicken needs longer to avoid salmonella. Once the meal is served, praise must be heaped on his achievements, even if the salad’s limp and the meat’s cremated.
Mission accomplished, Barbie Man and his cronies will proceed to crack open the Ballantine’s and drink themselves into oblivion. In Spain it’s got to be ‘whikee’ (sic). Barcardi and coke is for maricones. Women are generally not allowed ‘whikee’ although they may be permitted a ‘Byelees’ (sic). They will be required to remain sober in order to mind the children, wash up in the river and drive the car home in a straight line.
En route, Barbie Man will demand to be dropped off at the ‘local’ with his pals for el penultimo and you won’t see him again until he’s begging you for the Ibuprofen on Sunday morning. Bless him!