Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

07 September 2009

Il barbecue

To me, having lived in New Zealand for considerably more than half of my life, barbecues are commonplace. But to some English they rank for adventure with the Boy Scout fire; one preferably started with supreme difficulty and on a piece of equipment reminiscent of those makeshift stoves made of petrol cans one sees in photographs of British tommies ‘brewing up’ in the Western Desert in 1942. I have no doubt that England possesses as many elaborate self-starting gas barbecues in cast metal and redwood-stained hardwood as there are in the whole of Australasia but… they’re not British.
The barbecue at the casa Chiesetta Numero Due, Barga, Tuscany is a rectangular metal pan, similar in size and shape to a child’s toy pram. It totters on tubular plastic legs and has a wire grille that hovers over the pan with no discernible means of support or adjustment. Roger, flushed and pyromanic, sprinkles methylated spirits over shop-bought charcoal then drops a lighted match. Whoof! The coals settle to a cryptic blackness, their only sign of combustion being an occasional pinging noise.

Sausages, lamb chops and steak from the local Conad supermarket lie on the lukewarm grille for a considerable time before being turned to dry on the other side; but not before the grille has collapsed, plunging a number of titbits on to the coals. Sooty offerings are scraped and as charred sacrificial noisettes are shared around, augmented by a simple dressed salad, and eaten with as much relish as the contents of a soup bowl on the Hungarian border in 1956. This is the life!

As we wash our feast down with a local verdicchio the charcoals assume the fierceness of hot, flowing volcanic lava. The meal is over, the barbecue is ready.

From ‘Antipasto’ random samplings from various writings made over a few years of visits to a ‘New Zealander’s Italy’


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By Don Donovan