Last Wednesday I rolled the gas grill around the corner of the house to the main garden and set up a table with drinks, crisps, cheese, tomato and all of the other barbecue trimmings. It was time for Summer Barbecue #5, but this one I hosted. It was a farewell party for members of our small group (a sort of family unit I belong to within the church) who are moving to Cardiff next month to help start a new church in Wales.
As I mentioned in a previous post, summer barbecues seem to be all the rage in England, and I'm loving it. My barbecue last Wednesday was a quiet, pleasant, dry, warm-ish evening here in Nottingham and just perfect for an outdoors event. I felt like we were cocooned in a peaceful greenish haze...the green of the lawn, the holly hedges, the ivy covering the house, the shrubbery and the fruit trees grew ever darker and more enveloping as the twilight deepened and we feasted.
Thanks to commenter Jill, who asked after an earlier post just what the Brits eat at their barbecues. Do they have the same burgers, hot dogs and potato salad that we trot out, she wanted to know? Well, yes and no. It looks the same, but it doesn't always taste the same!
Hot dogs, for instance, aren't anything like American hot dogs (what I wouldn't give for a Chicago dog with cheese fries!) but are delicious English sausages in their own right. I've been greatly enjoying some sage and honey mustard pork sausages that someone left behind. Hamburgers are essentially the same, and I must recommend the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference burgers with cheddar and chives. Yummy! We do have potato salad here, and green salad, too, and I've discovered that making a potato salad with toothsome Jersey new potatoes is a treat indeed. You're more likely to get Vintage Cheddar & Red Onion or Thai Sweet Chili-flavoured crisps than potato chips, which are delicious, though I'm frankly baffled by strange meaty-flavored potato chips like Roasted Thyme Chicken and Prawn Cocktail.
I'm a huge fan of ketchup and pickles on my burgers and hot dogs (unless it's a Chicago dog, of course!) but "pickle" in England is actually kind of a chutney. Don't buy Branson's Sandwich Pickle expecting, well, sandwich pickles, because you'll get a mostly brown relish that tastes much nicer than it looks. In my quest for dill pickles, though, I've found some little gherkins that are more less like baby dills, and when I layered up my burger at the Wednesday barbecue with ketchup and pickles, several of my friends laughed at me. "That is so American!" they scoffed.
"Thank you," I said, giving them my sweetest smile before cramming the heaping burger into my mouth.
After we'd eaten and drunk our fill (an amazing amount of meat disappeared very quickly once the men arrived), Jules and James brought out cricket bats, a cricket ball, a Frisbee and even a softball and baseball bat. After a few rounds of softball to keep the American happy, we played Ultimate Frisbee, which ended when the disc went irretrievably over the holly hedge. I thought at first I'd just climb through the hedge, but after putting out a tentative finger realized that hedge was sharp and that I did NOT want to insert myself into it. Who knew holly was so fierce? The boys played some cricket, we happily consumed a fruit and yogurt pudding (aka dessert) and everyone went home happy.
I could get used to these barbecues.