“Daddy this coal tastes like chicken”
“Off course it does dear. Just eat it and don’t choke on the bones”
It was barbecue night last night. A chance to release that inbred urge to set things alight.
The previous night as we sat round the dinner table eating anaemic bacon, insipid cabbage and tasteless potatoes, we listened to the news on the radio, numbed by the bland, dull, humdrum that passed for life in our little country. The weather forecast started up and there was an easily detectable change in tone. The following day was to be beautiful, fine, dry and sunny, altogether unexpected and for once they spoke as if they meant it.
The kids eyed me from across the room, their cute little faces full of hope and longing.
“Can we Daddy? Can we?”
I turned towards my wife, my cute little face full of hope and longing, giving her the same look that
seemed to work 9 months before each of my children were born.
By coincidence, as on the night of each child’s conception, she was on her second bottle of white wine and as on those nights she nodded resignedly and gave me that “alright if you must” look.
I beamed from ear to ear and my kids beamed back at me.
“Right empty the freezer”
“Chicken Teriyaki thighs, Mexican chicken drumsticks, honey glazed chicken thighs”
“What’s the best before date on those” my wife calls out.
“Doesn’t matter, they’ll be fine, the barbecue will sort them out”
Released from the permafrost at the back of the freezer, tomorrows offerings were left out to thaw.
The fridge was emptied of vegetables and after a quick visit to the off licence filled with beer and white wine.
We all went to bed happy that night, content to know that tomorrow would be the day.
I spent the morning in Portadown, where a lot of my male brethren were preparing for their upcoming barbecue night. Theirs is more of a collective arrangement, all the males come together build a massive fire, bring their sofas, drink eat and burn Mary.
Me, I’m more of a loner; my burnt offerings are made over a smaller fire.
I drove home windows down, already smelling the scent of charcoal drifting through the country air, either that or the sun melting the tarmacadam of the road.
I made It home before the family. This evenings meal wasn’t to be cooked on our South African Barbecue, as recommended by the Hairy Bikers, but to be a more primitive effort. I wandered around the garden picking up rocks and built a primitive stone circle. I filled the circle with sticks and charcoal, took out a chair and a primitive bottle of Budweiser squatted in deference before the stone circle and made fire as my ancestors did with a lighter.
Once I had stopped retching from the smoke that had followed me around the garden, I wiped away the tears and sat down beer in hand and waited for my progeny to return.
My kids returned prostrated themselves before the beloved barbecue, and wandered off to play on computer and Xbox out of the hot evening sun. My wife disappeared in to the kitchen to do the less burdensome work like prepare the food that would accompany the cooked chicken. Me I lovingly, tenderly, took Moy Parks finest Brazilian/Thai chicken thighs and drumsticks, Teriyaki, Mexican and honey glazed flavour and placed them on the grill over the fire.
I sat back drank another bottle of beer and waited. After a while it became a bit more difficult to determine which were the Teriyaki and which were the Mexican flavoured. Indeed as time and beer bottles progressed it became more difficult to determine which were the thighs and which were the drumsticks. That didn’t really matter. The important thing was to be sitting outside on a summers evening, beer bottle in hand watching stuff burn. This is what life is really about.
My wife came out, everything was ready inside. She looked at the fire and my lovingly tended cooked meats. She smiled at me patted my head as she does our six year old daughter. Placed the cooked chicken on a tray and taking my by the hand steered me towards the house, calling at one of the kids to put the bottles in the blue bin.
After all that effort, the meal itself was a bit of a blur, what with all these types of salads and humus things that accompanied my meal. My wife had also cooked extra chicken just in case there wasn’t enough for all the family.
Once finished I got up from the table. I was happy and content, a mouth full of charcoal and teeth full of chicken strings. I smiled at my wife and made towards the back door.
“No Liam” she said.
“But it’s a family tradition.” I replied.
“What’s a family tradition” piped up the kids.
“Well, when I was young, me your uncles and your Granny and Grandad camped every summer down in Cavan fishing on the lakes.
Every evening we would cook over a fire. It kept us warm once the sun started to go down and kept the mosquitoes away. Before bed each night me and your three Uncles would line up by age behind your Grandad and take turns in putting the fire out.
You see, that stream of liquid hitting those hot stones was a test of manhood. There would be shards of stone flying through the air. One of them could easily of had your manhood or in your Uncle James case one testicle. So that is why it is now a tradition.”
“That is also the reason we no longer get invited to any of the neighbourhood barbecues anymore.” My wife sang out, as I grabbed a bottle and stepped out into the garden.