It is fair to say that some barbecues are more successful than others. At their best, they are hardly to be bettered; my best friend, for example, hosts fine barbecues, where all the ladies sit comfortably on the patio drinking Amaretto Sours and the men folk sporadically bring tasty morsels to the table, with the same pride and devotion on their faces as her beloved tiger-cat used to display when carrying in his latest frog/mouse offering. We even once did that thing where you cook an entire chicken on the barbecue perched atop a can of beer; AMAZING.
Sometimes, though, outdoor gatherings are less enjoyable. I have never actually had food poisoning from a barbecue, but frankly this is quite remarkable considering the number of black-on-the-outside, bleeding-on-the-inside mystery items I have eaten, my normally sterling judgement clouded by oceans of sweet pink wine - which may well have had a wasp or two in it. I have also attended parties where the barbecue has had to take place inside the garage due to the raging monsoon outside, and hosted one where the trestle table seat gave out midway through, almost killing the unfortunate folk sitting astride it.
Today, however, The Artisan Meat Company in Mottram St. Andrew celebrated its first birthday by showing exactly how a barbecue should be done. This lovely farmshop opened its doors in Cheshire exactly one year ago, and plans for world domination continue with the news that a second shop - Didsbury Farm Shop - is due to open on Wilmslow Road in a few weeks or so. This is bad news for anyone who has developed a slight addiction to their peerless bacon, sausages, meatballs and chops, although excellent news for any purveyors of large-waisted pants; I fear my hard-fought campaign to get Mr Liz to eat vegetarian once a week - never really very successful - may be entirely sunk now.
Anyway, whilst I admired the pigs, goats and geese, taking my opportunity to inhale the scent of the countryside, Mr Liz was also gazing in open-mouth reverence - at the Big Green Egg. This is the king of all barbecues, and understandably irresistible to a man who only has a pile of wonky bricks with a rusty grill on top at home: a handsome, dark green ceramic beast, the Big Green Egg does pretty much everything bar the washing up - it is an oven, a grill and a smoker, and Mr Liz now pictures himself as a Jamie Oliver type, rustling up pizzas and nonchalently cooking them outside with handfuls of home-grown herbs thrown on top.
This is unlikely to happen in reality, so instead we filled up on lamb, chicken and pork belly cooked by BBQ master Andy Annat, as well as Artisan's own steak burgers and sausages from the grill, washed down with a little white wine that didn't have a single fly in it. So thanks again to Mr J and co for their excellent hospitality; the whole of Didsbury (well, maybe not the vegetarians) is counting down the days until you bring your meaty wares in our direction...
- The Artisan Meat Company can be found at Cherry Tree Farm, Lees Lane, Mottram St. Andrew,
Cheshire, SK10 4LL; go and pet their goats NOW.