Tom Wrigglesworth - summer is always a setting for barbecue disasters.
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 August 2016
The Sheffield-born comedian gets hot under the collar after his barbecues fail to hit the culinary heights
Greetings readers, I hope you’re all enjoying the summers. Please note, this is not a typo. I’m of the opinion that if Yorkshire is bathed in dawn to dusk sunshine for more than one day a year, the regional use of the word ‘summer’ should be pluralised. Although thanks to a reasonable May followed by one of the wettest Junes on record, this year’s summers began with a typical false start and many feared it had peaked too soon.
Nevertheless, I have just completed my third barbecue of the year. By completed I mean hosted, and actually been the one in charge of the grill. I’ve simply attended more, standing nearby as someone else sweats profusely over a rack of different shapes of meat, all of which are in one of the binary states that barbecue cooking facilitates; ‘still-a-bit-raw-in-the-middle’ or ‘more-charred-than-the-coals-beneath.’
Interestingly, the different shapes of meat seem to snap between these two conditions the moment the chef turns their back on the sizzling shelf of sorrow and pleads with a child for the umpteenth time ‘not to run past so close’. At least that’s always the line articulated, you can tell in their smoky teared-up eyes that they have lost all humanity and hope, and deep down they wouldn’t mind if the child actually ploughed into it and brought the whole bloody thing crashing down. The child would probably make a full recovery, and at least the grown ups could declare the event a write off and get on with ordering take-away.
And it was after completing my third largely unsuccessful barbecue that I decided to hang my tongs up until I’d cracked the two key elements of outdoor cooking, namely dealing with hecklers and timing. Now as a professional stand up comedian you might well have thought that these two skills should be well established in my artillery. Not so. My defence of another culinary catastrophe would centre on the fact that this was the wrong type of heckling and timing, possibly in the same way that train companies claim delays were due to the wrong kind of leaves on the track.
Broadly speaking, heckling is natural by-product of having too much alcohol and not enough things to do. I’ve also observed that barbecues are one of the few remaining places where traditional gender stereotypes take refuge. While the women can fill time by rearranging condiments while remarking how they’ve also considered painting the fence slate grey, or complementing each others frocks, the men can quickly become restless once they’ve learnt where the toilet is and familiarised themselves with the slab of continental lager. I suspect this is true throughout the country but add to the mix the razor sharp wit of the common or garden Yorkshireman you can see why it’s such fertile ground for heckling.
But it’s not the booze inspired quips that constitute the wrong type of heckling, but the dreaded words uttered by my wife as she flaps her way across the garden – “for god’s sake Tom, please just get the burgers on, people are getting hungry”. She’s said this every time, and every time I’ve panicked and followed her advice. And every time we’ve all sat down to try and enjoy the different shaped meats that somehow manage to occupy both binary positions and be simultaneously still a bit raw and burnt to a crisp. These barely edible qubits are then smothered in as many condiments as possible in order to render them irrelevant, while the barbecue sits several paces away like an ostracised smoker. It’s only when I revisit it 20 minutes later that I realise it’s just reached the perfect cooking temperature, and that’s the wrong kind of timing in anyone’s book.
Until I learn to ignore the concerns of the wife and the hunger levels of our guests, I’m going to be more like a law abiding child at barbecues, and keep out of the way. Someday I hope to once more wield a paraffin cube in anger, after all, I would hate my barbecuing career to have been like this year’s Yorkshire summers, and have peaked too soon.