11 July 2005


The weather in the UK has been really nice so far. I was thinking about this unexpected observation while cycling to work on a beautiful blue-sky morning with temperatures comfortably in the 70's. It's actually more to my liking than summer in Boston, where it's often oppressively hot and muggy. I've been lucky so far in that it has rained a ton (don't get me wrong, it rains a lot, but it's been tolerable so far). Of course, I'm warned all the time that the winter is dark and rainy and suicide-inducing, so I should wait until I've made it through that before passing judgment.

The weather certainly cooperated this weekend for our housewarming barbecue on Saturday. Living with 4 brits meant that I was in charge of the grill for the entirety of the party. At first blush one might think it a bit shackling to cook all evening, but grilling is different than being stuck in the kitchen making Chicken Kiev. For one thing the party ebbs and flows around the food in general, so there's always a scene in the vicinitas of the grill. For another thing, I'm fairly adept at wielding tongz in one hand and a Stella in the other.

I had originally intended to buy the Instant Lite (i.e. doused in gasoline) variety of charcoal, just because I knew I'd have other stuff to deal with besides trying to coax the coals into ignition. Unfortunately I grabbed a 10kg sack from the wrong pile and had to get some "lighter gel" at the last minute. Yes, for some reason they sell lighter fluid as a goopy gel here instead of just raw accelerant in a can. Now, my partner in grilling from A-Side can attest that above all else the key to grilling is patience. People think you just touch a match to the coals and they explode into flames, ready for grilling. The proper technique, of course, is to build a pyramid of coal, goad it into ashing slightly at the edges and building a hot red center that begins to burn the rest of the coals. This requires careful knowledge, occasional reapplication of lighter goo and about 5 beers while sitting around waiting for the coals to heat.

The limeys all assumed we were going to have to get a flamethrower to get the coals going, but I managed to keep them distracted and soon enough I had two grills going with an ideal layer of hot coal for cooking. The only trouble we had was that the grills were the right height for foods which require high heat and fast cooking, such as burgers and sausages. We also, however, had some really money marinaded chicken which is hard to cook on the same grill, since it requires longer cooking on a lower heat. In the end the outside of the chicken was burned crispy and black by the time the inside was cooked, so that was a slight defeat.

Finally, the best part of being the chef during the party is that I can then excuse myself from my most hated of all chores: cleaning up afterwards.

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