The truth is, I was quietly thinking I had dodged a bullet, that the barbecue would just stay in the garage where it belongs this summer.
Once we passed mid-July I decided the hive mind of the house would silently accept we were over the hump, that there was no point in getting it out at this late stage.
But no, the female hive mind came together independently of me and it was decreed that there should be burgers. The heat obviously got to us.
I had put the barbecue into position and was feeling pretty pleased with myself when my wife casually said to me I should check it was working. So I took off the cover, and opened it up.
And then, my first mistake. I should have taken one look at the Jackson Pollock-style layered palimpsest of grease, closed it again, and said it was broken. I didn’t even know grease could grow mould, did you?
But I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I think part of it was guilt. I clearly put the barbecue away straight after cooking up a storm of greaseburgers last summer.
Also I got some idea in my head that it would be good for me to do this job, that it might get me into my flow for a while to be absorbed in this task, and I might feel a sense of satisfaction afterwards. Oh what a fool I was.
A half an hour later I was up to my neck in grease and so was everywhere else. I was gradually realising that grease doesn’t go away. You can really only move it from place to place.
So everything that could be stripped off the barbecue was in the sink in a solution of half grease and half water with just a soupcon of cleaning product, and I was moving grease off the body of the barbecue on to the ground.
And of course I was having to make sure none of the congealed fat or grease went down the drain, because you don’t want to cause a fatberg. So I was filtering it out with my bare hands.
If I was just going to be cooking for immediate family I probably would have been OK with a certain level of congealed fat on all the workings of the barbecue. Maybe I would have been happy to get off the most recent layer, content to leave 2020’s layer alone, bedded nicely as it was on top of the pre-pandemic layer. But illness is harder to hush up in non family-members.
My main thought as I burned through various bits of steel wool and scrubbers and clothes, all of them becoming half grease within three seconds of contact, was amazement that this isn’t more of an issue. No one talks about this.
Barbecuing is presented as being fun, but there is a dark side of the barbecue dream. By the time I had got as much grease as I could off the frame, and hosed down the patio and picked the remaining hardened gunk out of the drain, I called my wife. I was determined not to, but I knew I couldn’t go on without some support.
“This is not clean, obviously, but is it clean enough?” was my question to her. There was an element, too, of “please, please would you clean the removable bits that are in that grease pool in the sink because I am losing the will to live and if feels like there’s a layer of grease over me and everything else and nothing will ever be clean again”.
She took the hint and offered to clean the other bits. She knows a man on the verge when she sees one.
By coincidence, at that moment my friend in Australia rang. Barbecue country. To be honest, I didn’t even bother with the pleasantries.
“Is there some secret to cleaning a barbecue?” I asked him.
“Did you spray it?” he asked. “You can get this stuff and you spray it on and it dissolves the dirt, and then you use these things like baby wipes but with sharp edges. But you wouldn’t want to be cooking on it anytime soon. That shit is toxic.”
Finally I decided maybe I should do now what I should have done before I started, and look up the manual. I have to say, if nothing else, it gave us a good laugh.
Basically a light rub with a steel brush was the main advice. And then, do not use abrasive cleaners, kitchen cleaners, abrasive pads, and do not clean any of the removable bits in the sink.
As I put away the Cif, and threw out all the abrasive pads, and retrieved the removable parts, I decided it would probably all be grand, and went to Google where to buy the toxic spray.