A barbecue, also called a cookout, is when you cook outdoors for family and friends. You all eat, talk, laugh, maybe swim, play music and dance, play games and in general have a good time. I was once told at a barbecue that this is what life is all about – being with family and friends and just enjoying life.
When you go to a barbecue you have a great time. But when you put on a barbecue you do not enjoy yourself as much as you would think – you are too busy for that. If your friends come from far away and have to be at work the next day, then by the time you can sit down and talk and take it easy, they are thinking about leaving!
The thing you cook the meat on is called a barbecue grill or just barbecue for short. The barbecue and the sauce you use (barbecue sauce) gives food that special taste somewhere between smoke and ketchup.
In a barbecue the food is put on a wire frame called a grill – or on a metal rod called a spit. It is cooked using wood, natural gas or, most often, charcoal that burn under it. Gas is faster and leaves no mess but the food does not taste as good. Charcoal and wood together is best. It is all that smoke that gives it the right taste. And not just the right taste, but the right smell in the air! (You can always tell when your neighbours have not invited you to a barbecue).
No one is sure where barbecuing comes from, but it seems to come from somewhere in the Caribbean, either from pirates or Native Americans. It came to America in the late 1700s but it did not become common till the 1950s with the rise of suburbia.
Barbecuing is now practised all over the English-speaking world and probably beyond. The American South seems to be its heartland.
Like swimming, a barbecue is one of the simple joys of summer.
But as you are there eating and laughing, know that sometimes there is a dark side to it all.
A barbecue can be used to show off and put others down: See my lovely house, see all my friends, see how many people I can feed – I am better than you. I have seen that. Not to name names or anything.
The expenses for a barbecue also tend to get out of hand since it is better to have too much food and too many seats than too few.
In my own case, in the days and especially hours leading up to the barbecue my wife becomes mean and heartless: all the love drains out of her heart and her face as she bends her whole will to serve her new gods: the Guests Who Are Coming.