'I can't imagine a group of mates all standing around a microwave'
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Heston Blumenthal might be a gastronomical marvel, inventing dishes like his infamous snail porridge and tricksy meat fruit (chicken liver parfait impersonating a mandarin), but when it comes to barbecues, he's pretty much just like the rest of us.
"Britain has an interesting association with barbecues, because we've got to take the sun when it comes – or take the lack of rain when it comes," said the chef.
He's as inclined towards "standing outside with an umbrella in the pouring rain in a baseball cap, can of beer and sausages" as he is towards running his globally acclaimed three Michelin star restaurant, The Fat Duck.
"I've always been a massive barbecue fan," says Blumenthal, who has a new 4KCharcoal BBQ design out with everdure, but ask him what he puts on his, and he says: "It's about versatility."
"Burgers, chops, steak and corn on the cobs, all chucked on together, are all well and good, but what about baked Alaska and pots of stuff, rather than meat just sizzling on the grill?" He asked.
"You can do desserts on the barbecue, you can do a paella or a risotto, and just let the smoke sort of waft over the top, until the flames and the smoke almost lick the food."
A barbecue isn't just a tool for getting raw food into an edible condition either.
"It's more than that," noted the London-born chef. "It brings people together. I can't imagine a party – a group of mates – all standing around a microwave; it's connection."
Heston believes that in many ways we have lost "intimate human connection, the ability to really feel and connect with another human being," the way our ancestors did. The cavemen of our past interacted in smaller family and community groups, whereas now, social media has us connecting on a "more surface level, with many more people."
Blumenthal added: "Humans have an innate need to connect to something – connect and bond."
And when it comes to food, little else connects people so well as a barbecue – whether you're a caveman or living today. Between "the noise of the little crackle, the glint and the light," and "the smell that comes off it," as well as the physical warmth of standing beside one, smoke in your eyes, drink in your hand, barbecuing provides a "connective hub" for people, and is inherently fun.
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