In every situation in life, there's always a way to make a tit of yourself
This should probably be renamed The Awkward Guide To BBQs (for the British), because the Aussies seem to have this down. The Americans probably do as well. But in Britain, barbecues tend to amount to a group of people standing around a forlorn tinfoil pot of barely smouldering coals, wondering how much of a bad idea it would be to just douse it in petrol a little bit, just to get it started.
That is, of course, if no dads are present. Dads know how to barbecue. Instinctively, implicitly, dads know how to barbecue. Perhaps, while mums are enduring long hours of painful labour, dads are taken away to a secret room in the maternity ward and taught how to make a barbecue work, how to reverse a car with one hand braced against the passenger seat headrest and the boot so full of a family-sized tent and various holiday-related paraphernalia that there’s only 2 square inches of rear windscreen available to actually see through, and handed a sacred book of jokes. If there is a dad somewhere within a 100-ft radius of your barbecue, it won’t be long before you’re relieved to hear the words “stand aside, you’re not doing it right”.
I’ve been to 2 barbeques in the last week where no dads were present. Because it’s been a bit sunny recently, and when that happens in Britain everyone goes a bit mental, starts wearing overly optimistic shorts and wants to cook meat with fire. The first one resulted in me passing out embarrassingly in front of a load of people I’d only just met, probably due to not being very well and inhaling a larger-than-healthy volume of burger smoke (and also me being shamefully squeamish about someone telling the story of how they broke their foot, but that makes me sound like a massive wuss so we’ll just leave that bit out).
My abiding memory of that social occasion will be coming round, seeing my flatmate crying about the situation and asking her whether she was alright, whilst someone attempted to roll me into the recovery position and I tried not to die of awkwardness at the realisation that I was now lying conspicuously on the floor in front of a load of people who, moments earlier, I had been endeavouring to engage in small talk about how nice the weather was being. After that, my head was filled with a combination along the lines of “I really hope I didn’t fall on that enormous knife that was around here earlier” and “ohh god, I’m causing a scene, quick, make a joke about it”. At this point, I must give my heartfelt thanks to the hosts for looking after me magnificently, they did a splendid job.
The second one was much less dramatic and, thankfully, did not involve the interruption of me spontaneously plummeting floor-wards. This one was a much more typical British barbecue. This one became segregated into Group 1: sitting around eating crisps, wishing they’d brought their coat, getting slightly loopy from smoke inhalation; and Group 2: clustered around the barbecue, stubbornly denying the fact that the four coals that were actually still warm were going to take anything less than about 9 hours to cook one sausage. Group 1 eventually announced to Group 2 that they’d got bored and moved on to pudding. Both groups eventually conceded that we should probably pack it in, stick the rest under the grill, and have a cup of tea.
And so it ended in the usual way: indoors, with everyone once more united around a much more familiar medium, the teapot. If there’s a lesson here, it’s probably this one: we may not have the slightest clue how to effectively operate a small tinfoil tray of fossil fuel, and the combination of meat and fire may be one that is slightly too exciting for us to handle properly, but we do know that any event which ends with us putting the kettle on ends, always and unquestionably, on a high note.
The Awkward Guide accepts no responsibility for adverse reactions to the implementation of advice supplied herein. Side-effects can include: smug laughter, mild disdain, and temporary irritation.