An Open Letter to the British Sunshine
RE: Barbecue season
Dear British Sunshine,
I know you're shy. I get it - I'm shy too. That's why I'm writing this letter instead of screaming at you from my backyard. But if you could challenge your shyness just long enough to stay out in the open for an entire afternoon so that we can have our annual British barbecue, I'd be ever so grateful.
I truly believe that British happiness hinges upon us enjoying at least one barbecue every summer. If we can have just one roasting-hot afternoon to get the family together and burn some sausages to a crisp, we can sustain enough happiness and stoicism to see out the rest of the year's cold, miserable, fickle British weather without too much complaint.
The fact we don't see a lot of you, Sunshine, makes us appreciate you all the more. We love it when you peek out from behind the clouds. We're the first to whip our cardigans off and role up our trouser legs to get your warming rays on our chilly skin. And we're raring to throw a good old barbecue at the first sign of a fair summer's day, because who wants to cook inside when the glorious Sun's blazing down on the garden?
It's not even that British barbecue food is particularly good. We've got crozzled beef burgers, crozzled sausages, crozzled chicken drumsticks, crozzled pucks of sliced halloumi, crozzled sticks of vegetable kebab, and crozzled hunks of corn on the cob smothered in greasy margarine. Every bit of meat is cooked to high heaven to minimise the risk of food poisoning, and since we're blackening all the carnivorous dishes it's only fair we do the same for the veggie options.
But it's the thick, crusty char that makes British barbecue food as iconic as it is. Nothing beats that sharp, scalding sting on the roof of your mouth as you chomp greedily into a pork and apple sausage that's fresh off the barbie. There's the squeaky crunch of the charcoal exterior and the sawdusty dryness of the overdone innards. Then comes the refreshing relief of a hastily swigged mouthful of ice-cold lager to wash it all down.
And let's not forget about Britain's timeless barbie side dishes.
There's the salad bowl comprised of limp slivers of iceberg lettuce, softening lumps of watery cucumber and orange-green cherry tomatoes that turn your face sour when you bite into their unripe skins.
There's the slimy pasta salad with its simultaneously sweet and bitter tomato sauce and curious little chunks of toughened courgette (at least I think it's courgette).
There's the creamy potato salad made special by a sprinkling of chopped chives that were harvested from the neglected herb box at the bottom of the garden, where next door's cat likes to bask in the rare sun (and do his business, but we forget about that fact while it's barbecue season).
And don't forget about the pappy white bread buns for the sausages and burgers, which somehow always wind up flattened and battered and pitifully stale before they even get close to a bit of meat and tommy ketchup, as if they've just got home after a brief, sloshed-up fist-fight down the pub.
I know what you're thinking, Sunshine. You're thinking that us Brits don't sound very good at barbecuing. And you're right.
British barbecue food is an abomination. It's an insult to al fresco gastronomy the world over. It's utterly at odds with humankind's incredible history of bringing together food and fire in the interests of furthering our evolution.
But let's be real - you can't expect us Brits to be good at barbecuing when the weather's so naff for so much of the year that we can barely get outside long enough to get the coals lit. Don't you think it's admirable that we keep on trying at every opportunity?
As soon as there's a whiff of summer Sunshine on a Saturday morning, that's it. Off to the supermarket we sprint, canvas bags in hand, to raid the shelves of their barbecuable wares.
The afternoon will be spent charring edible items over white-hot coals, regardless of our culinary capabilities.
We will eat the charred food with big happy grins on our greasy lips because we are grateful we could get it cooked at all.
And we will make impassioned comments about the deliciousness of the charred food no matter how disappointing it may be, because we are relieved that The Bloody Rain didn't tip itself all over our party and send us scuttling indoors to cook sausages in the oven as if it were any old Tuesday dinnertime.
No matter how bad British barbecue food gets, it will always be perfect in our eyes. Why? Because it is synonymous with you, our beloved summer Sunshine, and the rare and joyous moments in which we are graced with your presence.
When the sun comes out, we come together to cook over fire like our ancestors once did.
When the sun comes out, we throw all our plans away so that we can go and play in it.
When the sun comes out, we have an excuse to sit still and bask, to be present and take stock of it all, like cats in herb boxes at the bottom of gardens.
So please, Sunshine, I beg you... Don't disappear behind the clouds.
Don't let The Bloody Rain muscle his way in and dampen our spirits.
Don't force us to put our cardigans back on and roll down our trouser legs and blacken our burgers in bog-standard frying pans.
Shine down on us while we get the coals lit and give us chance to indulge in our annual, life-affirming dose of deliciously disappointing crozzled British barbecue food. We'll be forever grateful.
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Very well written. Keep up the good work!
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