Firing up dads’ barbecue ambitions

A new book helps you take food out of the cellophane-clad chill cabinet and straight into your garden – and onto your barbecue

 

Like teenagers emerging for their debs, like cicadas blooming bug-eyed from dormancy after 17 years in development, our July 2013 heatwave has seen the emergence of the Irish bbq Das in all their colourful multiplicity.

The bbq Das are instantly recognisable: eyes squinting slightly in the sun; pale flesh reddening; clad in aprons and armed with tongs in one hand and beer in the other; dressed in shorts and those curious socks they wear with their sandals; and all worshipping the Fire God who emerges from the sacred Temple of Weber.

It’s easy to laugh at our collective behaviours when the sun shines, and even easier to laugh at the bbq Das. Guys who don’t cook from one year to the next suddenly commandeer the patio or the deck or the backyard, their tongs and spatulas laid out with the precision of surgeon’s instruments. ‘Barbecue Bibles’ are brought down from the shelves, and the ritual of barbecue is treated as a sacred rite.

Now, it might all end with little more than burnt sausages and incinerated corn on the cob, but I want to propose that the barbecue ritual is a very important one indeed.

Cooking over coals and wood is elemental. It returns us to nature, even in a pretty much urban fashion. It alters the way we cook, and for many people injects a great deal of fun into something they otherwise think of as a chore. Barbecue is intensely social, yet it is a very relaxed form of social behaviour and cooking.

And now it’s time to take it even further. Imagine if your barbecue practice went further than firing up the Weber, so you could already be looking back at the photographs of your brilliant clambake, or that turkey you deep-fried outdoors in a big pot.

What if your bbq dinner actually featured sausages you had made yourself? Or if the burgers you cooked were served in your own sourdough rolls, with your own kimchi or pickled cucumbers served on the side?

If that all sounds fanciful, then Tim Hayward’s first book, Food DIY, reveals that not only is it not fanciful, but it is extremely do-able. Mr Hayward’s focus is on the craft skills that underlie the nuts and bolts of cookery, from making proper sloe gin to cooking an entire animal on a gridiron.

“It’s empowering to understand how something works, even if you choose never to put that knowledge into action,” he writes, and that is the truly healthful aspect of food DIY: it takes food out of the cellophane-clad chill cabinet in the supermarket and straight into your garden and your backyard.

Essential piece of kit

I suspect that for many bbq Das, Food DIY will become an essential piece of kit, as fetishised as the Weber, a book that will be meat and drink to the sort of geek who dreams of building his own pizza oven in the backyard, or crafting a smoker out of a dustbin or an old filing cabinet, or making and then cooking his own doner kebab with a blow torch. There is a lifetime’s learning here and, if you want to get beyond the burgers-and-bangers stage, then Food DIY will take you there.

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