The Barbecue: A modern form of meal perfection

Spring is in the air in North America. The sun is beginning to shine, the doors are beginning to open, and the barbecues are back on the deck. It’s a strange object the barbecue. An outdoor oven on wheels, flame in a framework; it manages to hold a special place in our meal-time motivations.

The barbecue it is at once egalitarian and aggressive, ideal and instinctive. In fact, the barbecue seems to represent a modern form of meal perfection for many people.

The barbecue promotes m-eating together

There’s something very primal about the act of sharing meat; it brings people together. Like a pride of lions preparing and sharing their kill, the barbecue is a powerful magnet for social interaction and unites family and friends in the process of meeting and eating:

“We’ll throw all the family meat on the barbecue, and we have baked potatoes, salads and beverages. The kids are all out swimming, so we’re relaxed and just sitting around. Everyone shares their meal; it’s like they bring their meat in from the hunt and share it. It’s wonderful. It gives the cousins a chance to play. That’s a tradition.” – Grandmother (2008)

The barbecue relieves performance pressure

Where other meals can require extensive preparation, and place enormous pressure on the cook, the barbecue helps deconstruct formality and reduce performance pressure. Everything tastes good on the barbecue, and it requires much less effort than a formal meal:

“Family barbecues are my favourite things in the world. It’s usually at one of my Uncles houses. The kids play together while the adults sit together and drink. The guys are at the BBQ cooking. It’s just a great time….There is so much variety in the meal, everybody is involved. You stuff yourself. Everybody is happy.” – Mother (2009)

The barbecue breaks down barriers

Both physically and socially, the barbecue has the power to break down barriers. In a physical sense, it breaks down barriers between indoors and outdoors; food preparation and food consumption:

“Usually when you’re cooking in the kitchen, a lot of them aren’t huge and everybody’s crammed in. When you reel out the barbecue on to the deck, and everybody’s out there, you can all socialize around the cook.” – Mother (2008)

In a social sense, the barbecue helps to break down gender barriers; re-engaging males with food and the meal preparation process:

“I have a very clear memory of my dad preparing a western meal [barbecue]. It stands out for two reasons. Firstly, my father was cooking instead of my mother. Secondly, it was the first time I’d seen red meat cooking. It was like I was watching something magical happen.” – Father (2008)

So what are your experiences with the barbecue? Does it hold a special place in your mind, or is it just an oven on wheels? I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings on the barbecue.


Storygraphy said...

Interestingly it's the only time (or over s short period of time due to the weather) when the men will cook BUT will talk about it for the rest of the year.

Nick Black said...

Hi Joolzey, thanks for the comment. BBQ's did seem to have a strong attraction for men. One interviewee described how her sons were 'allergic' to the kitchen, but as soon as Dad put on the BBQ, they were like 'caged animals at the back door.' Something about the combination of outdoors, flame and meat was very attractive.

Wonder how you could capture that passion and bring it indoors - for the rest of those 'talking' months?

Anonymous said...

Nick - sounds like you're craving the good old Aussie bbq. The trend here is to have the indoor/outdoor alfresco experience to extend it for as long as possible.
Cheers ... Zora

Nick Black said...

Yeah... You're probably right. In some ways you begin to take the BBQ for granted when you live in Australia, it's like a year-long staple. Here it can become a luxury.

The alfresco experience is also present in parts of Nth America, but much less prominent as you move further North (extending your time outdoors isn't particularly appealing when it's close to, or below, zero).

Anyway, thanks for dropping in Zora.

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