Every weekend this summer, you’re going to look up at the sky and then back down at your phone then up at the sky and then look at your phone and then, yup, back at the sky. “Do you think we could risk a BBQ today?” you’ll say to your housemate or incredulous significant other – they know the deal, even if you refuse to acknowledge it.
Planning a BBQ is impossible: like trying to jump between buildings in The Matrix, you just have to be like “okay, gonna do it anyway” and tuck your chin and sprint full pelt at it. Win or lose, your invited friends and palatable family will have to respect your gung-ho nature. Would they be so brave in the face of the fabled British meteorological roulette? Maybe not, but they’ve got their own stuff to worry about.
What do you bring to a BBQ? It might seem simple, but what you take can speak a lot to your character, to who you are as a human, and what your relationship with the BBQer really means. Here’s what each of the things you bring to the BBQ says about you:
There are never enough buns and at one point you always have to go “Oh, it’s okay. I’ll just eat it without” and you make a joke about carbs that doesn’t land and you have to quietly eat your sweating meat puck from a paper plate on your own. Good news: If you take up the mantle of the Breadless Boy of your own volition then you can’t be shamed into trudging to the corner shop to buy a bag; that’s someone else’s job. Bad news: Eating a gnarled hunk of ground meat on its own, from a paper plate, sucks. People who turn up with plenty of bread – crusty, fresh bread: French sticks, buns, baps, brioche, flat-breads, pitas – are the smart, sensible types. Good on them.
This is for the person who thinks along the same lines as the bread lads but, at the end of the day, you’ve just brought pieces of flimsy cardboard, you cheapskate.
Peak barbecue. The bringer of the bangers is the life and soul. Pick him for your best man because he knows what’s up.
Subsets of sausages:
- Expensive sausages: No point, they’re getting burnt anyway; an unnecessary waste (unless you pick Merguez or Knockwurst in which case *bites lip, closes eyes* yes)
- Cheapest sausages: “Thanks for the minced-anus-and-bollocks in edible tubing, Gary”
- Mid-range sausages: A safe bet, elevated by an interesting choice of flavour, like some shit with apple in it or w/e
Ooh, doing well at work, are we? Why don’t you wind your neck in. Bargain BBQ steak rarely tastes anything more than average, and will only serve to mark you out as a card-carrying Tory.
“What,” your host says, “are you doing? You think I’d invite all of you lot round and not even have my own burgers? You bringing buckets of your own tap water to the swimming pool, mate? Go sit down at the back of the garden with the rusty metal and that shed we’re not allowed to open for some reason.” You fucked up.
Minted lamb chops
Well, looky-here. We’ve got ourselves a pro. The minted-lamb chop is an eighties-special – like back-combed hair or Bovver boots, or knowing what Bovver boots are – and a delicious-smelling, delicious-tasting treat. Everyone will think you’re a bit of a smug cunt but they’ll just about respect you, like how people look at Ben Affleck.
I don’t know, a bit of a basic move*: Chicken is obviously delicious at a BBQ and comes with an air of danger, but its obviousness makes it a bit… obvious. Your favourite film is The Godfather. Your favourite band is The Beatles. Your favourite joke response to “What is your favourite album?” is ‘The Best of The Beatles’. You’ve not done anything wrong, but you’ve not done a whole lot right, here, either.
*note: this is assuming you have brought unseasoned chicken. If not – if you have been up marinating that flesh all night – then that’s excellent and so are you. Your effort will not be in vain.
There are good dad moves and there are bad dad moves (more on that below, too) but this… this is a very good dad move. No matter your age, if you bring some skewered meat and peppers and that, doused in something fragrant and spicy, that speaks well to your future as someone your children can respect.
Every time I’ve been to a BBQ someone has fucked up the ribs, leaving them on too long so you’re essentially just gnawing at a charred bone, so all I’m going to say is: good effort but you need to stay in your lane.
Here’s what you’re tempted to do: Buy plastic American cheese or buy anything except plastic American cheese. But here’s what you should do: Buy the absolute worst plastic-sheet cheese you can find and also a little four-pound hunk of something smelly and blue. One for the people who just do not give a fuck and one for the heads that know. But yeah, if you bring cheese only - no matter what genre - you’ll be smiled at gently and accepted like an eccentric and occasionally exasperating family member. You’re now Kramer. Are you happy? Now you’re Kramer from Seinfeld. And look how that ended. (Halloumi is totally cool)
Dependable, fair, nice guy: that’s you. People say “[Your name]? I like him, he’s a good bloke”. If you’re coming on your own: four to six beers is totally cool; if you’re in a group: get a case. Getting these numbers wrong is the only way you could possibly fuck this up. (Nobody cares if you bring cheap beers or expensive ones, btw. Literally nobody. Anyone who does is a mug)
See above but people say “[Your name]? The guy who talks about Glastonbury all the time? I mean… Yeah, I guess he’s alright.”
While most commonly associated with tennis, bringing Pimms (and Pimms paraphernalia) marks you out as an F1 nerd who reads Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs on the tube.
A box of wine
You’re the only person who’s allowed to say “LOOK WHO BROUGHT THE PARTY!” when you walk into rooms because i) it would appear that you have brought the party, and ii) people are scared of you.
Ooh, you’re hard.
Some fancy utensil
I respect your want to prove your intellectual worth via the medium of a brand new spatula or some kind of halloumi slicer but many won’t. Save that shit for your own, barely-used kitchen.
Optimistic, a little childish… melts under pressure? I don’t know: bringing ice-cream to a BBQ, while adorable, feels like a lightweight gesture, especially as you know those Choc Ices will never see the light of day again and will only have to be chiseled out the freezer by the next tenant.
Your own playlist
This is quite thoughtful, actually. Something nice and personalised, inclusive; at once enjoyable and ignorable; propulsive but pleasantly undistracting. Plus you can say you spent your bap/beer/burger money on the £9.99 Spotify Premium account if anyone gets lairy about your sewn-up wallet.
This is the opposite of that. You bring a guitar to a BBQ because you’re a selfish arsehole who wants people to fawn over them. You’ve thought about nobody, about nothing, but your own enjoyment, you sad, pathetic, strumming mug. (Notes: talent isn’t defining factor; if you bring a ukulele, that’s worse. Only caveat: I will accept that sometimes it’s exciting to hear someone do the opening riff of an Arctic Monkeys song on an acoustic guitar, because we are all but animals, each of us only men, and Arctic Monkeys’ discography is chocker with bangers)
Bring as many as you can. If you turn up to my BBQ with a bag full of fucking amazing condiments – banana ketchups, seasoning, chilli sauces, BBQ marinades; rubs, spices, blends – then I’m gonna snap you off a cold one and kiss you on the mouth. With your evident foresight, the BBQ can never go wrong: even if the meat gets royally fucked up, it’s still gonna taste at least pretty good. Well done. You are a lovely man.
“I’m bringing the vegetables!” you say, excitedly. “Uh, yeah, can you bring lettuce?” they say. “That’d actually be quite helpf--” But you butt in: “I'm bringing broccoli, beets, bok choy, corn on the cob, celtuce, endive, rocket, kale, maybe some fluted pumpkin, spinach, a little orache, avocados and bell peppers, artichokes, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, fava beans, horseradish, parsnips, radishes, and--” They’ve hung up. You’re a bad person.
Falafels are great: I don’t know that they’re BBQ appropriate but I think I speak for everyone when I say, good effort. You’re a real trier.
No limit. No exceptions. No caveats. Bring loads of crisps. Big bags, multi-packs. Favour maize-based options but honestly, mate, go to town. Rent a Zip Car and fill it up with Sensations. Thai Chilli and Roast Chicken. You’re the Less-Sad Bag o’ Wine Guy. Walk in with your head held high and your hands already dusted in coating.
Now: this seems like a fun option - I love a good salsa as much as the next man - but this is quite a boring choice. You’re a dad, basically. You’re now your dad. You know like how you’d see your dad electrocuting himself trying to switch scart leads so you could play FIFA98 and you promised yourself you’d never get so out of touch? Well guess what, Johnny Relish, it happened.
You’re trying to be healthy, trying to encourage others to do the same, and yeah, some grilled salmon, a stuffed trout, maybe a coriander-covered halibut, would all be lovely but know your role. You’re always forgetting your role.
Every gathering needs one person who brings the banter; the guy about whom everyone says – out loud or, in secret, in their bathroom that morning – “Oh, man, I really hope [YOUR NAME] is there”. If you bring the banter, that means you are a beloved member of this group: You are more important than any of it. More than the flames that lick the mean cooked, more than the beer that quenches thirst long held, more than the sauces that fucks up your new trainers and your new trousers, but mmhmm that sticky molasses goodness. A BBQ without banter is just some people standing there staring into a bin that’s on fire until uncooked flesh becomes burnt. Without banter, a BBQ is nothing. Remember: both Bs in BYOB are for ‘Banter’.