plural barbecues

Some claim that the word "barbecue" is from the French "barbe à queue" meaning head to tail, indicating that the whole beast is cooked. It is perhaps more likely that it is from the term ‘barbacao’ used in Latin America to describe food cooked slowly over flames and embers or, more properly, food cooked in a pit in the earth. Latterly, it is the name given to the contraption, home-made, shop-bought, coal-, gas- or wood-fired, smart or shambolic, on which, in the United Kingdom, foods of all kinds are badly cooked out of doors, usually after having been smothered with some sort of sour marinade. In this climate, it often entails shivering for hours out of doors until the fire has reached an adequate temperature to incinerate the outside of a piece of chicken or sausage without noticeably cooking the interior, the whole flavoured with something entitled "Cajun spices". There are some in this country, and more in Australia or the United States, who have mastered the art but here they are few and far between. The barbecue is often shortened to the hateful B-B-Q or, in Australia and South Africa to "barbie". I worked, in 1969, on a ranch in Texas, where we carried out a cattle drive and were met, at our arrival in some remote place, by the sight of something which looked like an old steam train. There was a fire at one end and a chimney at the other. Somewhere in the middle was a cow and we added to this the various rabbits we had shot on the drive. The cow had been cooking in the smoke that passed through it for a day or two and was, I have to say, completely delicious. This is a grand scale of barbecue which is properly addressed. But here in the UK, the heap of petrol-swamped kindling that flavours the average barbecue makes it a meal to be avoided where possible. You have been warned.