It is All Just About BBQ Jealousy?

When it comes right down to it, perhaps human evolution has all been for naught. 

My mind started drifting on that particular stream recently, as I watched my neighbour gleefully set up his patio furniture and lovingly polish his brand-new stainless steel barbecue.

Several millennia ago, so the story goes, we oozed our way out of the primordial slime and eventually sought shelter in caves. Not long afterward, one of our clever forebears struck an Eddy match and presto! Fire was born.

No longer did we have to subsist on grass, berries, locusts and raw haunch of mastodon. We could make quiche. And cherries jubilee. And eat them with relish (if relish had been invented then) in our warm, dry dwelling places.

Over time, those dwellings became more elaborate, more comfortable, more secure from predators. With massive flat-screen TVs, so we could watch the fireplace channel to satisfy our atavistic need for fire.

Meal preparation became a full-time obsession. Gloriously-coloured books emerged, demonstrating endless culinary possibilities for those with the means and skill to execute them. Long past the Iron Age, the Iron Chef was boss.

True, our quest for gustatory variety has taken bizarre and evil turns at times. I refer specifically to kale, tofu and Marmite. I’ll have the insects and berries, if you don’t mind.

Our obsession with food has spawned entire industries. Fingers became forks, chips of chert became knives, and the simple stirring stick morphed into the candy red KitchenAid and the immersion blender.

The cave-mouth fire has yielded to convection ovens, microwavery and the George Foreman method of rendering mastodon filet into leathery cinders.

And yet, and yet… for some completely irrational reason (now, there’s a self-cancelling term), the arrival of clement weather tickles some part of our primitive brain and drives us outdoors to scorch our grub.

Not content just to spark up the barbie and let the noxious fumes of chemical starter waft toward our neighbours’ caves, we go to remarkable lengths to replicate the conditions our species spent thousands of years attempting to escape.

We crowd into our shiny SUVs and drive vast distances to erect a flimsy dome of nylon shelter, then squat for hours engorging burnt marshmallow, melted chocolate and Graham crackers as the campfire belches acrid smoke directly toward our eyeballs, no matter where we sit.

We will canoe or kayak for days to endure the pleasure of trying to start and maintain a decent fire with sodden grass and mossy twigs.

We will hike to the tops of mountains, tiny aluminium pots banging against our thighs, then try to coax enough heat from tiny aluminium stoves to make a cup of tea that would take two minutes in the kitchen.

Not to mention the enormous sums of money we’re prepared to spend for the privilege of escaping the comforts of home.

Are we doomed as a species? Or am I just jealous because the neighbour has a barbecue and I don’t?

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