Ask any man and they’ll tell you that when it comes to barbecues, we’re the boss. It’s one of our last bastions of manliness – the ability to grill meat outdoors. This is our territory: we’re just the best at it, end of. And having been to plenty of barbecues in my time, from grey, rain-soaked garden parties under brollies in England to impromptu grills on the shores of aptly-named Manly in Sydney, I’m as fierce as any chap armed with an apron and tongs.
Besides, it’s not as though barbecue cooking is particularly difficult – it’s just a case of lighting the fire and stoking it a bit. Admittedly, in my case there’s always been someone else in charge, to organise things and keep a watchful eye on proceedings. Only once have I had to take control, and even then I somehow managed to rope a friend into doing the work. But it’s hardly work now, is it? It just comes naturally to us man-folk.
Endowed with such inherent outdoor cooking skills, it seemed a perfectly sensible idea to organise my first barbecue lunch in Dubai. You know, nothing too fancy, just good grub, some good company and fantastic weather. And, with a bit of luck, my mum – in town for the Christmas holidays – would enjoy herself, too, and welcome the change from the usual festivities back home. My buddy and I, the only men at the party, would ensure some top-notch grilling.
Things started well – sunshine, swimming pool, Christmas crackers, festive canapés and the like – but quickly took a turn for the worse. Alas, even the best-laid plans can’t anticipate faulty coals and lost luggage. Who would have known that the fuel we’d received from our neighbours would have been of such inferior quality? Or that my mate, whom I’d asked to watch the fire while I dashed upstairs to tend to mother – distraught because her airline had managed to lose her suitcase (again) and failed to deliver it in time for Christmas – would somehow manage to ruin things in my absence?
We managed to prepare one round of piri-piri chicken before it all went wrong. Neglected for too long, the coals had lost too much heat, forcing us to start from scratch. The situation could have been rescued but for a sudden swarm of flies (they may well have been bigger – locusts perhaps) descending like a biblical apocalypse, feasting on our half-cooked prawns and kebabs.
Faced with such overwhelming odds, plus my friend’s shameful ineptitude and a tearful parent on the other end of a mobile phone, I had to admit defeat. As I blushingly explained to guests that there would be no further hot food, just a second helping of salad, my mood was not lifted by the news that someone had eaten my portion of chicken.
So, what conclusions can we draw from the experience? For one, my wife and I will be spending next Christmas abroad, or at the very least indoors. My mother will no longer be flying to Dubai via a stopover and will be instructed to carry a minimum of three outfits in her hand luggage. As for barbecues, I still maintain they’re easy and strictly man-territory. Just don’t let the women distract you.
Grill-master Hfu Reisenhofer is our guides and supplements editor. He looks great in an apron.