My shameful secret revealed

June 28, 2017

Barbie king: Even royals go barbecue crazy when they visit Australia. Prince William helped locals from Flowerdale with a barbecue during his visit in 2010.

Australia Day means different things to different people.

True blue family fun and snags on the barbie day, honours day, Invasion Day, cricket day or lazy day.

For me, it’s a reminder of just how un-Australian I really am.

Not because I wasn’t born here or because I sound like a whining Cockney when I try to speak Strine, but because I don’t own a barbecue.

Let me say it again a bit louder — I don’t own a barbecue.

That’s right, I’m a barbieless bloke.

I realise it is utterly shameful, and not something to talk about at parties.

Particularly parties where blokes are blackening things on barbecues and swigging from cans.

Entertaining at my home means warning people not to bring sausages, steaks or marinated lamb cutlets unless they are prepared to stand over a very girly kitchen stove.

Indoor cooking usually takes the swagger out of barbecue blokes.

When I first arrived in Australia I did my best to fit in.

I remember getting off the plane and being whisked away to a celebratory barbecue by my Australianised Pommy friends.

They took me to a backyard with the geographical footprint of a size 10 shoe in Northcote where we stood over a roaring barbecue on a 38°C day.

They said, ‘‘This is what Australians do when the going gets hot.’’

Tough buggers, these Australians. Or barking mad.

When I got my own backyard I felt there was something missing, so I got a barbecue.

Unfortunately it came in a flat-pack with labels in Mandarin Chinese and not enough screws.

It also came with instructions in Chinglish.

I spent a week imprinting the decking slats of my verandah into my knees reading phrases like: ‘‘Slot rod B into hole C upside with key and turn left’’.

I didn’t realise it was an early cultural exchange with a rising power.

And when it was built, the thing looked like an Ai Weiwei sculpture on wheels.

I cooked blokey pink sausages and marinated spicy lamb cutlets on it for five years until it got so black and rusty everything came with lashings of ferric oxide dukkah.

Of course, I should have been cooking dumplings and Peking duck.

In a bout of carbon delirium I threw the thing away 10 years ago and have never regretted it.

No more scraping animal fat off the grill, or cleaning out the ash tray on a windy day, or worrying about roasting to death in an explosive inferno because I forgot to turn the gas bottle off.

Only when Australia Day comes around do I think about a barbecue.

But the mind plays tricks.

Now, when the smell of sausage and onions wafts across the fence or the breakfast award ceremonies I think of rising Chinese imports and shrinking landfill.

Maybe it’s the carbon poisoning.

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