The Art of Hosting a Good Barbeque
The question of what it takes to host a good barbeque is like trying to unravel string-theories ‘Calabi–Yau manifold’. The task is more tricky than a casual attendee may imagine. Organizing any form of event in the past was never my forte, yet I knew I had to build up the skill, so when the opportunity arose on the Australia Day holiday weekend, my hand rose up in a volunteering manner to serve for my country…marinated chicken pieces. Armed with only a cadet’s spatula and some elongated tongs, I was filling the shoes of a General commanding an army of food and entertainment preparations.
This is what I have so far come-up with to achieve a good result.
Choose guests wisely
Many people have varying and diverse circles of friends. The friends you have scones with while sharing your latest crochets, the heavy rock band members who rock-out with you till all pass-out and then the ‘save the whales’ friends with whom you love a good rumble on the high seas.
The safest option of least resistance is to stick to one group at a time. Like a juggler who handles only a single ring in each hand in a given moment, with the rest tossed-up in the air awaiting their time. If you prefer such a strategy you may be compared to a cautious investor, leaving your money in a small but sure interest earning bank account.
There may be another strategy. No I don’t recommend spinning the roulette and hoping for a good outcome of random friends.
Modelling on a famed example of a ring species of salamander – Ensatina eschscholtzii, it is possible to construct a list of house guests that span a continuum of different profiles and personalities, yet maintain a happy existence on the back porch of the house. As the picture illustrates each colour is a separate species of salamander, those that border two colours can interbreed to a lesser degree, the more distant the colour the more differences the species contain making their propagation unlikely or impossible. The example culminates with the green and purple species of the salamanders that live side by side (making a cull circle) but are far enough genetically & behaviourally that they are unable to interbreed.
The analogy applies to names of the invited. With the right draw of names the company of people will contain a perfect blend of personalities that will mingle and find someone else that they get along with.
The right quantity & type of food
Worried that people will be stripping leather from your couch as a source of food, because you ran out of all sausages? You may be suffering from a lack-of-food paranoia. Of course it is reasonable to provide enough food at least till the waist lines of your guests press a bit tighter against their belts. After all no one came to the barbeque to pinch a cold steel cheek of your new cooking devise without expecting a meal; it is not a barbeque-shower. Just buy a good portion of food but not so much that the neighbours think you are stocking up for nuclear Winter.
Unless you and your friends are vegans who are organising a barbeque to share the latest strands of alfalfa it is also important to have meat and lots of it cooking on the grill. What meat to choose? It doesn’t matter, anything with a nervous and vascular system shall do. Common choices I hear are parts of cows, chicken, prawns and lamb.
I personally believe as a host, taking charge of the meat is important and should be provided by the owner of the venue. However guests don’t have to sponge off you for free. Assigning a salad, side-dish, dessert or a drink would be a form of danegeld levied against the visitors for stepping inside your place of residence.
A large variety of dishes can transform a humble barbeque into a kings banquet, so enjoy.
A host should provide a good time for all the guests. In general keeping up an interesting conversation is all it takes. Sometimes steering the less social guests towards a good time may be advised. Introduction of unfamiliar people is a good etiquette to have in your back pocket as it helps break the ice. But it shouldn’t be forced; we are not herding sheep into an enclosure.
Sometimes depending on the crowd, group-games are a good way to pass the time. It all depends on the numbers. Small crowds are good for console games, especially Wii and X-Box. Board games such as ‘Scattegories’ or even ‘Settlers of Catan’ are amazingly fun.
With larger crowds you can play see-who-goes-home-first. Just kidding. I managed to pull off a successful trivia night with around 15+ people. ‘Charades’ is another one that comes to mind.
If all fails you can ask the guests to play help-clean-the-house.
Practise refines your skills. Take note of what went well and what stunk and refine for the next barbeque. Enjoy.