bbq's are important to finns. there are other big barbecue nations, no doubt about it, but we take special pride in eating outdoors throughout the summer.
the etymology of the english term is vague, but the most plausible theory states that the word "barbecue" is a derivative of the west indian term "barbacoa," which denotes a method of slow-cooking meat over hot coals. a foodie magazine casually informs its readers that the word comes from an extinct tribe in guyana who enjoyed "cheerfully spitroasting captured enemies." the oed traces the word back to haiti, and others claim that "barbecue" actually comes from the french phrase "barbe a queue", meaning "from head to tail." proponents of this theory point to the whole-hog cooking method espoused by some barbecue chefs.
wherever the term originates, there are multiple others that denote this most universal method of cooking over an open flame that has become a very special event if taken outside; a rare opportunity that often becomes an occasion. it has also become increasingly technical and grander.
some differences in the nuances of preparing food outside are apparent between us and, for example, the americans. while it seems that they appreciate bbq as a gorgefest where the biggest apparatus wins if stocked so full of meat that you can't smell anything else but a burning carcass for weeks to come, finns seem just ecstatic to prepare their food outside with the tiniest little portable bbq's. sure, we have adopted the tendency of bigger is better to some degree, but the amount of traditional small charcoal-heated bubble grills on front lawns and summer cottages is still impressive considering that a megasize gas grill can be acquired for a reasonable price these days.
it seems our affinity is fairly solidly based on the experience of taking an everyday essential outside because we just cannot do it most of the year. be it only one sausage, there's always a solid reason to start a fire.
since we start as early as possible – that is, when you can spend the requisite amount of time outside without freezerburn – for those of us who spend a lot of time at the countryside, endless grilled food starts to lose its appeal later in the summer. but knowing this does not in any way diminish the sheer joy of the first bbq of the year.
mine happened last weekend, at the garden cottage. my sweetie's brother had built a ghetto style barbecue for his bday last year: he had taken an old barrel and turned it into a humongous wood heated apparatus that could fit an entire village's dinner.
heating it meant burning a solid fire for some time to achieve charcoal, then we added some jack daniel's wood smoking chips for additional whiskey flavor... our not entirely small feast of ribs, sausages and soy burgers looked rather modest inside.
have you had your first barbecue yet? are you a fan of the grill?