Barbecue Etiquette by(GUEST BLOGGER)-

Jesús Ángel Miguel García

Director, The Spanish Institute and Research Fellow,

St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba

As we start enjoying vernal and summer evenings, we hanker for great and memorable barbecues. Despite COVID, we can still partake and share such an important culinary and social tradition to renew and foster bonds and friendships, even with all the precautions and restrictions due to the insidious virus.

Many are those who show their hospitality by hosting a barbecue.

The main advantage of a barbecue is that you can eat and entertain outdoors, in the safety of being in the open air, keeping social distance due to COVID, and basking in glorious sunshine; so beneficial for your mind, body and soul.

The Journal of Happiness Studies (2021) states that being outdoors is associated with higher emotional well-being, significantly higher positive affect and lower negative feelings, adding that "there is a wealth of evidence showing that being outdoors is associated with wide-ranging positive outcomes in terms of emotional well-being” (Stieger, Lewetz & Swami). Therefore, in times of social constraints due to the coronavirus, "the ability to spend time outdoors is likely to take on added importance vis-à-vis emotional well-being,” the authors point out. To that end, a barbecue can be just the ticket.

As a host, prepare for your barbecue event, and for the vagaries of the weather by having some blankets at hand for your guests, even a fire pit ready for a cool evening.

The informality of a barbecue also requires to make it as comfortable as possible for your guests. Therefore, plan carefully so that they can feel welcome, relax, eat well and enjoy each other’s company.

Before your guests arrive, ensure the gas canister is full, lite the BBQ and have it ready, so that they don’t have to wait too long.

Before the event, make sure everything is prepared: arrange seating, a serving table or individual side tables, cutlery, crockery and napkins.

Large coloured napkins are more festive than plain white. A stack of smaller cocktail or luncheon-sized napkins should suffice.

Plastic plates or sturdy paper plates, plastic utensils and disposable cups makes the cleanup easier, and it’s practical when holding a barbecue outdoors, rather than on your deck or patio for a small number of guests, in which case you might prefer to use your own dinnerware and utensils. They don’t need to match styles and patterns.

Provide enough comfortable seats for the party. It can be challenging to have to juggle food and drink while having to stand, and perching on a rickety and unsteady chair is never that enjoyable. A table where guests can place their plates and drinks, instead of their laps, is better.

Make sure there is shade. If it’s too hot, you can make available sunscreen. Also, if there are mosquitos, provide mosquito repellant.

Offer plentiful supplies of ice-cold water and cold soft drinks to keep guests hydrated. It will also help last the provision of wine and beer.

If the weather gets a bit cold, you can offer hot coffee and tea.

Be mindful of your neighbours. A barbecue can be highly aromatic and smoky, depending on wind direction and the cook’s ability. Place your BBQ as far away as possible from the house.

When playing music, choose the music in advance, and be considerate. Don’t play the music too loud that would make conversation difficult, and disturb your neighbours. Check the noise city bylaws, and until what time you are allowed to play music.

If you are a guest, tell your host immediately whether you will be attending, so that he/she can plan accordingly.

Be on time. Arrive at or shortly after the time stated; fifteen minutes is OK. Do not, however, arrive early.

Barbecues are, by definition, informal, and meant to be enjoyed. Encourage your guests to help themselves to bread, salads and drinks. If they offer to help you with cooking, serving drinks or handing food round, accept their offer graciously.

Remember that your barbecue is not to be the Great Bake Off. You are not in that TV show, so don’t show off. Your guests are not there to applaud your BBQ prowess. Ridiculous aprons, silly chef’s hats, boasting and bragging while barbecuing is inappropriate. Your guests came to eat, socialize and have a good time.

Don’t boast, don’t be arrogant, and don’t be rude. Avoid rudeness and the risk to offend, even unwittingly, by being aware of conventions of politeness, facial expressions, hand gestures, body posture, language, your conversation, tone of voice, type of and appropriateness of clothing, appearance, personal grooming, and cleanliness.

As guests arrive, ask them what they’d like to drink, while telling them what drinks you can offer them. As you hand over the drinks, mention they’re welcome to help themselves to drinks.

Have garbage bags handy to collect periodically empty cans and used paper plates. Keep them out sight.

Ensuring the safety for you and your guests is not only being precautious about COVID, but also about bacteria. Follow proper food safety and hygiene: wash your hands before and after cooking and eating, use utensils, do not double dip, and refrain from licking your fingers; it’s unhygienic and unseemly.

Don’t overindulge. Eating as you are starving will attract the wrong type of attention to you, and it would leave less food for others. Pace yourself, and do not fill your plate to the brim. Have seconds instead. The Rule of St. Benedict specifically instructs "not to be given to much wine” and "not to be gluttonous.” Temperance being one the four cardinal virtues.

Keep the consumption of alcoholic drinks on the moderate to low side.

As your guests leave, tell them how much you enjoyed their company.

Thank your host upon leaving, and a second time the following day by phone, email or with a written thank-you note. It’s a gracious gesture that will be truly appreciated.

The recipe for a good barbecue is to ensure that food, drinks, company, conversation and manners are good. Good barbecues are the sinews of good memories.