It has long been accepted that the evolution and, indeed, survival of man is inextricably linked to the cooking of meat over fire. Possibly fish, too. But not kale. I am convinced, also, that the presence of wood smoke has played a vital role in giving purpose, meaning and distinction to that evolution – awakening a sense of discernment that has ultimately developed into a palate. Mostly...
There is clearly something entirely miraculous about the emergence of cooking over live fire, especially in the late-developing – in our country, at least – field of enlightened barbecue.
Elsewhere, of course, this dark art was refined and perfected through the regular preparation and consumption, by indigenous populations, of slow-moving missionaries – a practice which I would now generally discourage, but only due to the tendency of men and women of the cloth to be less than tender and delicious, and not because of any personal disapproval of this perfectly understandable human response to their ludicrous preachings.
My own explorations of the role barbecue has played in our culinary development have confronted me with one burning (sorry!) question, and it is this: why is it that those dishes in which we have generally achieved levels of excellence within our civilisations are thought able to be prepared only on sleek and elaborate cooking appliances in designated kitchens, commercial or domestic?
Clearly – as I have established, at least to my own satisfaction – this is nonsense. Who can claim to have comprehensively explored the finer points of a tournedos Rossini, for example, until they have prepared it on, say, a kamado grill – cunningly elevated with wafts of pecan smoke and served on a plinth of Texas toast – rather than cooked in the limp-wristed confines of a French-leaning restaurant kitchen and served on a pale and sooky smoke-free crouton?
Or sturdy bone marrows, perhaps – eased to a delicate magnificence over coconut briquettes, accented with smoked sea salt and served, also on Texas toast, under a parsley, caper and onion salad – out of doors, at twilight, and with a flagon of ale, perhaps? Or how should we feel about meat of our own harvesting? My wallaby pastrami, made with meat from the lively little creatures which infest King Island, is miraculous. You’d be mad not to give it a shot...
So. There has been Heat & Smoke, Heat & Smoke II, and then BARBECUE UNPLUGGED. And now, more divine madness. We seriously believe that, in addition to cooking all of those dishes you might well have expected to see cooked on a barbecue, we can now show you – here in BARBECUE GOURMAND – how to cook an array of the sorts of dishes you may never have expected to see cooked on a barbecue. Or not. Are we mad?
There are so many new, old, familiar and wonderfully unfamiliar things we all should be eating – after having prepared them, exquisitely, over fire.
Just not missionaries, OK?
About the Authors
Author: Bob Hart
Photographer: Manuela Cifra