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Barbecues are good for blokes, writes Alastair Macdonald.
Do you like to be asked to a barbecue, especially if you are a ''bloke''? I certainly do. We ''blokes'' stand around the gas-powered barbecue, hearing the sizzling and spitting of meat being cooked on the hot grill, feeling the warmth of the gas burner.
A table is laid with green salads, parsley, garlic and all kinds of sauces. Some red wine, too. The moment comes and we are set loose to feast on hogget chops, on the best steaks. It can be catch-up-with-the-neighbours' time. Jokes, yarns, ribbings go on throughout this masculine-oriented occasion.
There is a cluster of men at the barbecue cooker, their eyes riveted to the cooking but conversing about work. It's about money earned, about V8s, and escapades during a hunting trip. That's how we blokes converse, shoulder-to-shoulder, rather than face-to-face, the way women do.
We don't need to watch our manners. When we finish eating a chop or piece of chicken, a ''bloke'' may just toss it into the hedge or into the shrubbery, the way our cavemen ancestors would have done. Instead of visiting the pristine bathroom and feeling out of place with perfectly folded pink towels and a spotless basin, a bloke can wipe his greasy hands on the coat of the inquisitive, drooling family labrador that has come around to sniff out any prize opportunities.
I would presume our caveman ancestors held barbecues, too. It may have been hot embers, encircled with large stones. They would go into the hills and hunt animals and bring back the meat for roasting.
During the frying and roasting they, too, would have gazed at the flames, at the cooking of meat, chatting, as we do today. They would have enjoyed the pleasure of eating both fat and meat from wild game without twinges of guilt. They weren't instructed not to in those days. Imagine the sheer pleasure of well-cooked lamb with the fat, without having a guilty conscience about fat and cholesterol.
I was once into my third steak last summer, when I heard a woman's voice say: ''Alastair, you will need to watch your cholesterol levels.''
Oh, I thought, I am being watched. Is it really that serious for me to eat a little fat, I wondered?
I began reading a book by Dr Sandra Cabot titled Cholesterol: The Real Truth. She explains saturated fat is not the main culprit for heart failure.
Rather, excess sugar and carbohydrate (mainly bread), plus stress, are more likely to lead to inflammation, which is the start of heart problems.
Saturated fats, found in meat, coconut oil, etc, have benefits, one of which is improved memory.
Dr Cabot has 10 heart-saving tips, one of which is to manage stress.
So our emotional health must be cared for, as well as our diet.
I think we men have negative emotions from the hard things of life. So what are we waiting for blokes? Let's get together more often and have a good ''barbie''.
Steaks, salmon, venison, hogget - the works, topped off with salads, garlic and onion. It's a time for connecting, communicating and some laughs. It's a time for ''chewing the fat'', too!
-Alastair Macdonald, who works at the Oamaru wool mill, is an organic gardener and former sheep farmer.