Sunday, 27 July 2008

Raw Vegetables in a Social Context

The barbecue season has settled over the land in a chicken-scented cloud and, like engineers at the Campanile di San Marco, I am applying a belt in an attempt to prevent structural expansion.

I'm not sure how I'm managing to put on weight muscle with a diet consisting significantly of declined raw vegetables. All braais begin with bowls of kettle crisps/doritos, carrot sticks and celery sticks beside a quartered plastic dish containing runny sauces in pink, orange and two shades of cream. It's best to avoid the cream-coloured pair, because one of them is always garlic-flavoured puréed garlic. It's also wise to avoid the pink and orange ones, because they show up on your party shirt (at this stage many guests adopt a curious, bent-forward-from-the-waist pose, as they pebbledash the garden table like Jackson Pollock in his pastel phase).

I'm a simple guy who likes his umbelliferae cooked. Carrots and celery are related to cow parsley and hemlock (celery even tastes like them) and Socrates could tell you a thing or two about that. Cooking breaks down any toxins or allergenic proteins they contain, so there. I once knew a girl who turned yellow from eating raw carrots.

When the meat is burnt you put a sausage (which looks like something you wouldn't want to find on your lawn), and a burger (which looks similar, but stepped on) on your plate and contemplate fourteen different salads, involving different combinations of raw vegetable, drizzled with mayonnaise or geranium oil, and garnished with olives, chick peas, sunflower seeds, feta, nasturtium leaves/ flowers, primrose ditto, tossed on a lit de jour of teased rice, sun-dried potato, twice-pressed pasta, extra vierge couscouscous and small green things which move about in your peripheral vision.

Pudding is a burnt banana.

Preceding generations of my family did not do barbecues. I think they regarded them as humorous and a bit naff. I guess this was because global warming had not begun to bite, and in the tropics there were always servants to do the cooking for you.

Last night's at Dawne and Martyn's wasn't actually a BBQ, although it was outside and felt like one. We met Martyn last century when the SS and I sometimes sat in our local playing bezique over Snowballs and pints of Stella (I did wean her off the pints of Stella eventually). Martyn arrived as an underage apprentice electrician, along with his school sweetheart Dawne and a variety of friends...Gaz the carpet-layer, Tony the paint-sprayer, Merv the mechanic, Del the BT engineer, etc. I think this genial bunch adopted us as a novelty.

It was good to catch up. Martyn, still with his Dawne, now owns and runs two businesses. Gaz recently gave up his job as a carpet fitter and, with spectacular bad-timing, has bought a house to do up and sell on. Alan the plumber recently bought a reconditioned safe on eBay. Following the instructions he reset the combination, and stashed away his watch, a useful sum of cash and his passport. Now it won't open and is stuck in the hall, immovably heavy and impossible to force. He is about to go on holiday abroad. In another eBay cautionary tale, Tom bought an MG for £3,000. On his first outing he was stopped by the police, arrested and locked up. It turned out the car had been stolen, and Tom lost both the car and his money. Caveat emptor.

It struck me that almost every trade one could wish for was represented at the party. One could have applied for planning permission, built and fitted a decent house without seeking outside help. The only thing not available was a safe-breaker.

I dreamed of vegetables. Cooked to a Cow & Gate pulp, with lashings of gravy.


  1. I always eat raw carrots in the hope of turning yellow - any colour is better than none at all, right?

  2. I suppose that's right, Marianne. Unless it's a goth, going for the 'pale and interesting' look.

  3. For years I have been almost unable to even contemplate eating a sausage (I meant that in a clean way)..BBQs in New Zealand when I was a wee nipper consisted of sausages and mroe sausages. All burnt to an elegant crisp with tough inedible skins. Luckily now I'm "older and wiser" (hang in there, it does happen) we just casually wave a bit of dead cow at the BBQ and chow down. No sausages. Sounds like your BBQ could have been here!

  4. Archer - I've mastered the 'older'. 'Wiser' is playing hard-to-get. Good to know we're not alone.

  5. Blimey - you're not one of those Raw Foodies are you?

    I was raised a strict vegan but have lapsed into common-or-garden veggie now as it's too hard to eat out otherwise & I'm pretty lazy too!

  6. Laura - Oh no, I'm not. Far from it. Veggie is easier to cater for, although we have a vegan friend - he of the once mohican (See We cope when cooking for him, but his own dishes are way better.

  7. You love barbecues reaaalllly! Why else would we have one every week? The correct answer is not 'routine'.