Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Home Truths

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Home Truths

Article excerpt

Byline: By Martin Wells

Salmonella, E-coli, third degree burns, hypothermia and shattered male pride.

Don't you just love the barbecue season? It's not that I don't like the idea of them ( a garden full of friends, the men gathered around the open grill talking about football, the women busying themselves in the kitchen, sampling the wine, making salad, swapping recipes, children splashing themselves with a hosepipe, neighbours ringing the police to complain about the noise.

After all, it sounds idyllic, doesn't it? The reality, however, always ends up completely different.

For me that means a succession of culinary disappointments, including the usual cremated burgers and flaming kebabs.

And then there's my own speciality ( Chicken Black Sock. Take four drumsticks, put them on the grill and wait for the skin on the outside to burn to a crisp. Then, make sure the skin on the inside is pink and serve with a little mayonnaise, preferably a jar that's been left too long in the sunshine.

To most diners it's barely edible; to the young, the elderly and expectant mothers, it's positively life-threatening.

And then there's my equipment which, as my wife is forever reminding me, is barely functional.

Every summer, I wheel my gas-powered barbecue out of the garage and every summer, this gigantic, Sherman tank-sized hulk gets rustier and more recalcitrant, less like a clean, lean, fat-reducing grilling machine and more like an unexploded bomb thrown onto a smouldering fuel dump.

The burners should be highly sensitive little nodules, pumping gas out in a finely regulated stream that can bring a steak gently to whatever stage the diner requires.

Instead, the e la carte choice on my menu ranges from "overdone" to "done-in".

Try as I might to clean every part with a wire brush, there remains on the grill bars and inside the lid the kind of festering, spoor-carrying cultures that, if an environmental health inspector came near them, would see the contraption condemned and its owner barred from ever picking up a spatula again. …

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