How to party outdoors.
I totally unplugged in the woods at a hot BBQ.
Summer socials go off-grid with BBQs all around Britain, as temperatures soar to record breaking highs.
The fire crackles as orange flames lick at ten fat dripping sausages, popping now and again as they burst their taught browned skins. Marshmallows are glued to long wooden skewers, muffled mouths, and stuck fast fingers. Friends chatter, laughter shaken violent free and carried far above swaying pine fresh trees shimmering in a summer breeze.
Children run with clumsy feet thudding past on hollow, dry earth, rough sticks in hand: sword fights clash amongst three kings, fought upon a rock on high. Crows group and caw! Midges swarm for a moment… until a gust carries their tiny hairy bodies this way and that, and they are lost.
The smoke changes direction again, choking my breath and stinging my eyes. I run a merry ring around the BBQ, avoiding the caustic air, like the carnal Inuit ethnic dance of ten American Indian warriors; black streaks of dirt charcoal streaked across both my cheeks. Staring at the flames and drawn by the flicker… I’m mesmerised, returning to some place long ago, hidden deep down in my karma.
Where does BBQ culture come from?
I have this nostalgic notion, a deliberate and firmly etched groove in my memory; deep in that buried unconscious part of the soul. An incant carried on the wind, as ancient and foreign as Anglo-Saxon letters etched in black ink upon a disintegrating scroll. Or, as deliberate as the pebble-smooth touch of daily tread upon stone steps, which rounds and shines their rough edges and corners; they lead to the front door of grandma’s terrace. A memory is awakened to the catch of a faint essence taken by the air currents, still tangible, hanging on. We share an agreement about the joy of a gathering around a fire, of oneness, perhaps something even quite dark, tribal or pagan, as we circle around.
A Caribbean Indian tribe called the Taino in 1526, were the earliest ‘Barbacoe’ to be recorded in the diary of a Spanish explorer. How uptight Europeans must have been! This was merely the art of drying meat over a framework of wooden sticks. Texans and ī no no mo methods used to keep meat, which then led on to experimentation with vinegar, butter, spices and herbs, resulting in hot BBQ sauces.
Why BBQ today? Go wild & let go!
How about a romantic retreat with your own private pit? (That’s not a compost toilet by the way, but you can have one of those too.) Summer Socials, off-grid, are all the rage. Some popular hobbies now include wild water swimming, nudist charity walk meetups and paddle board yoga. From fashionable quirky tree house glamping to ‘roughing it’ on a fully booked up survival course, why not follow today’s Celebrity Island crowd, satisfy your wanderlust, and go back to basics? Throw away your phone (at least leave the distractions and tracking of Googledom in the car) and learn to unwind. Awaken your inner mojo. Get muddy. Eat some leaves (edible of course). Beat your chest! Shout, “HAAAAAAAHHH!” Go naked if you want, if no one else is around, (maybe not- depends on your age I guess).
Can BBQ be healthy?
Traditionally the Summer BBQ has always been a bit of a meat fest, but the grill can be a healthy way to cook fish and veg too. These BBQ food holders are a fantastic help, stopping food falling through the griddle.
Why not spice up your off grid summer socials? This easy Mexican dish looks amazing, I can’t wait to try this:
- Fish tacos with green jalapeno salsa & chili cream: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/fish-tacos-green-jalapeno-salsa-chilli-cream.
- Go Brazilian with Roasted Chili Tiger Prawns: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/roasted-chilli-prawns.
- For vegetarian try Tamarind Squash and halloumi skewers: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/tamarind-squash-halloumi-skewers. The world is your oyster.
Which BBQ to buy?
Personally, I like something that folds small to store away on my boat- the best BBQ I had was a neat barrel style. With a multitude of choices around, you should consider several things before splashing out:
- Available funds- some BBQs are costly. They range from £15- to a few hundred quid. You can build your own if you want to, with some breeze blocks and a bit of cement.
- Garden or picnic space? – is your BBQ permanent or will you need to put it away for winter? Does it have to go in the car or caravan?
- How many people are you catering for? Trying to cook for a party on a tiny throw-away BBQ ain’t gonna cut it and doing so won’t be enjoyable either. Do you need a smoker or a pizza oven? Fancy or basic?
- Quality counts if you don’t want the pan to melt. Do you want to have a fire pit after cooking? Something more durable will be needed for this purpose.
Check out the fabulous tripod BBQ grids that hang over large round coal pans- these are my favourite BBQ’s for more permanent garden parties, and some are big enough to cater for weddings and other big summer social events too. I saw one of these at a Polish wedding.
Setting the fence on fire at the garden party has been done. Some might consider this an annual summer party trick! But for most, please consider the grass- try not to burn it, and legs on your BBQ help prevent this. Don’t be the twit that sits a BBQ on a picnic table or bench, leaving the wood burnt and unusable for the next visitor. In Britain it rains so much that with a little common sense, wildfires can be avoided, but you should avoid dry areas of woodland or grassland moors in droughts.
Take care with throw away BBQs on the beach, as the heat goes down into the sand where it can stay trapped, long after your fire has gone out. Here, this hidden oven beneath the sand awaits to severely burn any small feet that might stand or dig under the surface. Several days spent at a hospital in excruciating pain, and skin grafts taken from your butt to cover your shriveled feet, are not what you’d wish for, to end a joyous day out at the seaside.
Mental Relaxation = Battery Recharge: Full.
Awaken to nature.
What could be better than emptying your mind of all those worries, having some fun, and getting back to simple nature. Breathe the fresh air, catch up with old friends, forget the time, and eat, drink and be merry. Wake up to the twitter of birds. It’s like washing your brain out under cold water! We all need a break from work and routine now and again. Why not take a hike and camp the night in the trees? If you prefer a little more shelter, you can choose a tent, a caravan, a glamping pod, a tree house, a camping barn, or a shepherd’s bolt hole- hidden away on a far flung fell.
Top Fun BBQ Games Kit
Summer socials off grid allow much needed time for building friendships and sharing laughter. I passed a party game on the canal the other night, and they all had yellow stickers stuck to their foreheads- (they looked a little embarrassed, so I tried to avert my eyes the other way). But what are the best games for outdoor eating? Bowling is banned- grannies only! Let’s try a little harder.
Kan Jam is popular in the States. Throwing a Frisbee like disk at a trash can, you win points for hits. If you jam the slot in the can, you score extra.
Tin Can Bash– hit the cans and knock them over. You can use stones or shoot spud guns at them.
Glow stix add fun in the dark. Bend them to activate the chemical reaction.
Glow in the dark games are brilliant. Capture the Flag Redux is a cool game for larger groups of kids that will keep them running all night. This box set retails at around £50 and is often played by youth groups. But you could make your own glowing games for the night.
Paintballing in the woods is energetic fun. You need two teams. Old clothes are a must and cover your legs and arms- paint balls hurt! You will need protective eye and headgear too. You can now buy your own game kits. Set up some targets to hide behind, and team flags to retrieve from high places.
Warning- Games that may cause serious harm!
Limbo under the pole to music if you dare- watch Granny finally CRACK!
Twister with Grandma might be a step too far; squashed in, flushed and red-faced, too close to her saggy bosoms and inebriated by her eye watering EAU De Cologne. That young man, with twenty-twenty vision, dizzy and dazzled, is now forever blind- and was last seen running with out-stretched arms towards the distant hills.
Bobbing apples is best for Halloween! Grandpa takes a dive at six moving targets. His iron teeth grapple a fruit; it bobs, escaping him. He now appears a little gummier than before as he smirks a wry smile. The grinning veneers sink in a slow and buoyant fall to the bottom of the bucket where they lay in wait like a sitting crocodile, for the next unsuspecting fun seeker.
Hangin’ with the hippies- summer socials, hammocks & chilled vibes…
Hangin’ out in my Hippie Hammock, all alone and reading a good novel, is my idea of heaven, but isolating one-self is not so summer sociable. Hammocks are wonderful way to relax, or sleep off a hangover, and are colourful and cool too. Waterproof hammocks with fly nets are for the real outdoors survivalists. But for a more polite and up-right position, and if you’re posh, try a hanging chair?
The Coolest of Kite Shades.
No one loves a BBQ in the rain, do they? But absence of shade, and hand slapping *hot hot* sun burn, is equally unpleasant. I hung out with two friends by my boat on a scorching day; not a tree or a shady spot was to be found. The result was burnt guests! These Kite shades are now top of my shopping list and not only look cool, but are easy to erect and store away small, and give shelter from the mid-day sun under which to chill.
“Put another ‘shrimp’ on the BB!”
Keeping the children happy makes for a relaxing time too. Kids enjoy swingin’ in the trees like the little monkeys they are, so stringing up a hammock might be one way to entertain them if they’re old enough not to dive out of it, onto their heads. A strong rope net is better for little ones. They love a tent to crawl into, where they can congregate away from the adults and chat. Inviting little friends is compulsory for children if you want them to play. Torches, toasted marshmallows, hanging paper cut-outs that cast large shadows at night, cardboard boxes, blankets, sticks, string, treasure hunts and rope swings are creative ways to keep them entertained in the garden or the wilderness.
10 Fun Outdoor BBQ Party Costume Ideas for Summer 2021
Are you kidding? The scorch of the fashion guru’s judgement burns at the mere suggestion of denim jeans as a party dress idea, but these are what I feel most comfy in at BBQ’s. Come on, this is mud, smoke, and grunge. It’s a- sit on the ground or a log, ketchup oozing, charcoal burning binge. Hats look great and shade you from the sun. Bohemian jumpers and woollen capes are warm when the night cools. Anything goes, but watch out for midge bites on bare legs, and high heels- are for patio hugging bores here. And those of you who turn up in your ditsy party frocks, don’t say I didn’t warn ya when the dial on Twister points to yellow and you need to get your left leg over Uncle Harold’s head to third row on the far right.
Get Summer Social & Share
Another score for the BBQ’s is that people can all bring something along to eat or drink, making entertaining easier on the pocket. The time and effort dished out is easy compared to hosting a regular party. Let the kids help. Be clear at the outset about what you suggest people contribute if you don’t want ten packets of burgers. Begin with some basics yourself unless you want to wait all night for a guest sausage appearance. Making a list is a good start for bigger events. If you plan a small BBQ, then go for it- improvise on the night. Just the two of you, can be quite romantic. Most of all, have fun!
Finally, the BBQ, is about sharing, and food always tastes best shared. But there is one exception: Macadamia Haagen-Dazs ice-cream. This, “MY precious”, is the queen of desserts. Oops! Did I forget all about it, leaving the tub way back of the freezer until the last hanger on turned in? Then in the quiet of the night I devour it all by my narcissistic, greedy self. Ice cold, smooth, thick cream and the occasional crunch of a sugared macadamia nut, in-front of the few remaining glowing embers- the heart of the fire. “MINE, all mines!”
Share your BBQ secret sauce. What made your BBQ rock? Helping others to enjoy the great outdoors.
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