All puffy and golden on the outside, runny gooey and intoxicatingly sweet on the inside, who could pass up a marshmallow plucked straight from the toasting fork?
After adequate consumption of vegetables and accompanying protein, a marshmallow dessert was promised. This involved lighting a scout-laid fire (the responsibility of the resident 14-year-old) in our bespoke outdoor fireplace.
Should you have an oversupply of paving stones, house bricks and a sliced up fallen gum tree, you too have the makings of cookout facility such as ours. The only purchase required was for two grill plates and a packet of marshmallows. Money well spent.
As the night wore on, flames became radiant coals, and family conversation became – just that. Far nicer than a bowl of ice-cream in front of a screen.
Against a backdrop of sizzling choice cuts, glowing coals and the occasional flare up as drips catch alight, channel your medieval ancestor and enjoy food prepared in the rudimentary way of days long past.
Our American cousins call it a cookout, and I think that is a brilliant term for our much-loved barbeque. To me, cookout implies that it’s all happening outside, everyone is involved and essentially, that’s what I love about a barbeque – the joint effort of a social group.
Barbequed food is usually served in its simplest form, relying on basic herbal ingredients and quality oil to carry it through the cooking process. While the fire is settling to its even layer of radiant coals, simple salads of fresh produce are arranged and condiments mixed. As the meat sears and crackles, there is ample time for relaxed conversation as cook and companions cluster at the source, intermittently turning and prodding as anecdotes and observations are exchanged.
Our barbeque bears little resemblance to the sophisticated pieces of engineering that are available in stores today. Basically a coal box on a stand, this wood-fired lady has turned out a plentiful supply of succulent meat her in time. Gathering kindling from the yard and the neighbourhood to fuel her has been part of the charm – especially for the youngest. If the weather changes its mind, she is carried undercover very easily.
We thread our big metal sticks with marinated meat (in this case, chicken and lamb with crushed coriander, garlic and basil) in dispersed with seasonal small vegetable pieces. This week we opted for our usual salad of cos, olives, tomato and feta (sprinkled liberally with oregano), dressed with oil and lemon juice.
Before enclosing an unthreaded morsel inside a piece of fresh flat bread, a dollop of yoghurt, cucumber and mint dip is doused over the top. All food groups covered, all appetites sated and a meal consumed in a tribal rather than nuclear convention.