Yesterday it was barbecue weather. I know, because I had a barbecue in the evening (burgers, hotdogs, and a couple of peppers) and it went swimmingly. I would lay good money that I was not the only one at OISE to enjoy a barbecue (and not only because when I went to buy buns the shelves were bare). It is something of a national compulsion when the weather is right, and a mark of hospitality. Many are the new students arriving on a Sunday in summer who have had a bit of meat in a bun thrust into their hands before they can work out how to say ‘I’m a vegetarian’.
The barbeque was in fact my second al fresco meal yesterday. There was also an improvised picnic. And my children counted a third – the ice-cream they had walking home. Eating outside is both inconvenient, transgressive, and deeply satisfying, not just as a signifier of summer’s arrival, but as an atavistic ritual, a celebration of our bone-chucking ancestry (the word barbecue is apparently derived from a word of the Taino people of the Caribbean for ‘sacred fire pit’, barabicu.)
Little wonder, then, that the barbecue is also traditionally the only occasion on which many men will consent – no, demand – to cook. It is the meal of a hunter, even if the hunt led nowhere more perilous than the bottom of the freezer. I do a bit of cooking during the week as occasion demands, but still found myself with the tongs and a beer, musing over the smoke and sausages. One day my sons will learn to flip a burger and poke a sausage in their turn, and when I am too old and weak will barbecue me chicken wings when the sun comes out in June. And I will know that the circle of life is both endless and complete, and that it tastes of barbeque sauce.