A Guide to Summer Food
When out and about in the past few weeks, you may have found yourself squinting whenever you look skyward. Gone are the grey skies sponsored by Dulux's 'Shades of Misery' collection, and in their place someone seems to have left an oversized novelty light-bulb which radiates both light and heat. That, dear reader, is the sun. Stop looking straight at it, you'll just hurt yourself. Instead, enjoy its rays through these various food-based endeavours.
It's summer, so why cook inside safe from the elements with easily-controlled kitchen equipment and access to soap and water, when you could sit in the cold trying to cook sausages over a foil tray filled with bits of charcoal? Barbecuing the crap out of suspicious meat is as much part of summer as pretending to be interested in sport, or wearing a wide-brimmed hat. There are right and wrong ways to do it, though.
The wrong way is to panic and head for the nearest park. Edinburgh and Glasgow's parks are packed with obstacles to a perfect barbecue, such as alcoholics, insane dogs and Ultimate Frisbee teams. Much better to make a day of it and head either to the beach (Edinburgh) or a bigger, better park (Glasgow). Park-wise, our Weegie readers could do worse than Mugdock Country Park or Finlaystone Estate. Neither is much more than half an hour from the city, both can offer barbecue pits and other useful facilites, but Finlaystone's tolerance of boozing swings it for us.
East Coast people are spoiled for choice when looking for a site to burn the crap out of their food, but North Berwick gets our vote for two reasons. You can get everything you need once you get there, saving you from smelling like raw meat on the train, and there's more good ice cream on offer than you'll know what to do with. Seriously, Greco's. Irn Bru ice cream, it's just... you gotta try it. Plus, when your barbecue is done at the beach you can simply upend it in the sand and tidy up. Do that in the park and prepare for the indignity of a manslaughter trial.
Yes, drinking in the outdoors doesn't exactly scream out elegance and dignity, and there will be many people this summer who take the slightest break in the clouds as an excuse to wander around with their tops off swigging cider from plastic bottles and being belligerent towards passing children and animals. The Skinny does not advocate such crass behaviour, but has some suggestions to gentrify and generally improve the whole activity, giving your horrendous dehydration-powered hangover a vague semblance of acceptability.
The trick is to get yourself down to a beer garden. Glaswegians in particular, take heed, because you lot aren't even supposed to be drinking outside in the first place. The Big Blue (Great Western Rd) offers a hobo's-eye-view over the Kelvin, and the Big Slope (Kelvingrove St) has plenty of shade and lovely flowers to look at. Your best bet, however, is WEST (Templeton Buildings). WEST (their capitals, not ours) brew their own beer and serve it up just off Glasgow Green in a bar that bursts out onto the grass outside, with plenty of room to fit everyone back in when it inevitably starts chucking it down.
As for the Edinburgh folk, it is true that you could wedge yourselves in to the remaining postage stamp of Meadows grass unsullied by crazy crusties with their fighting dogs or the sprawled idiots who insist on modelling their seating arrangements on a game of 'duck duck goose,' but we've just had this discussion. You can do better, and you'd hardly have to turn around. The Auld Toll (Home St) lies just beyond the Meadows, and has the same quaint charm but with a much more controlled clientèle, a wider selection of beer and much comfier seating, on account of actually having seats.
You could head just up the road to the Links Bar (Alvanley Ter), with its terrace out in front that makes finding even the meekest and most uncooperative of friends a dawdle. Or you could do the opposite, and hide in the Beehive's beer garden (Grassmarket). It's a feat of engineering, with multiple floors, hidden tables, and more steps than most blocks of flats. Grab a pint and a hiding place, and wait for the heat-induced red mist to descend on your friends and loved ones.
MAKING ILL-ADVISED PURCHASES
If sunstroke and food-induced diarrhoea haven't sold you on this summer business, then how about a nice gadget to play with? Winter has sledges, spring has shotguns and Barbour jackets, and summer has solar-powered backpacks and USB fridges.
Picture this: you're out in the park against our advice, and your illicit bottle of wine begins to get uncomfortably warm. What to do? In the past the only option would be to get over yourself and enjoy the sun, but now there are a whole host of products that solve this clearly-pressing problem.
Get your CrossKase backpack (for a mere £140!), with its solar panels and multiple USB adaptors, ally it with a USB-powered fridge, and your problem's solved. Admittedly, you've just created several new problems, but hey! Cold wine!
And while we're solving non-existent problems, what about a barbecue that you can take indoors? Yes, we have heard of an oven. Anyway, the Rondue (just £79!) can solve all your nagging worries around setting your friends alight, allowing you to cook indoors and outdoors in style on a device that looks like a cross between a gallstone and the disembodied head of one of the Smash robots.
Yes, summer is here. A season when companies can confidently pitch a product for cooking indoors in the way you would cook outdoors, if you weren't indoors. This 'summer' is a strange and confusing time, but don't worry. It never lasts much longer than a couple of weeks.