Monday, July 05, 2010

It's barbecue season...., if only the weather would cooperate!

I've been to three barbecues this week. Two of them were rained out. Not to worry: our spirits remained undampened, even if the patio furniture didn't. But it would be nice to have some warmer, sunnier weather - it is, after all, July!

Well, we had a nice day today. And even if summer is taking its time this year, I have memories of past barbecues to keep me warm.

The smoky aroma of barbecue brings me right back to my childhood, when all it took was for a few friends of my parents to drop by, and presto! We were having a party. The grown-ups would go off to market and come back with loads of wonderful things to eat: tomatoes and onions, salted eggs, green and yellow mangoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, sweet rice cakes, fish and shrimp and mussels and clams, cases of my dad's favourite Red Horse beer.

Most importantly, there was meat - freshly sliced pork and choice pieces of chicken, which would soon be marinating in huge green plastic tubs, because the kitchen bowls weren't big enough.

We had a concrete barbecue pit built right onto our patio, with a wide brick ledge all around for holding platters and utensils. Ronnie, my dad's right-hand man, would stand there, wielding an anahaw fan, coaxing the coals into a white-hot smoulder, and barbecuing the first pieces of meat, which he skewered onto thin whittled bamboo sticks for easy handling.

In Canada, we managed to build a barbecue pit ourselves with stackable bricks.

And then other friends and family would start arriving, and Pops would start opening the beer bottles and serving up the sizzling barbecue. Our sprawling garden would be filled with laughter and conversation, everyone sitting at long tables spread with fresh banana leaves that served as both tablecloth and plates - most convenient, not to mention eco-friendly!

Finally, when night fell, and all the barbecue was consumed, hands were washed and rubbed with lemon rinds, the patio cleared of chairs, and there would be dancing under the inky, star-pierced sky.

So, in celebration of one of summer's most beloved rituals, I offer you now my family's version of Filipino barbecue. It works well with both chicken and pork. Serve it with ice-cold beer and whatever sides and salads you like - but remember, it tastes best when accompanied by laughter and music, and if you can get it, a skyful of stars.


2 kg pork shoulder, sliced thinly
1 cup soy sauce
1 can 7-Up
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 head garlic, peeled and crushed
pepper to taste

Combine the soy sauce, 7-Up, sugar, garlic, and pepper in a large bowl and whisk to mix well. Add the meat and marinate for at least two hours. Thread the meat onto bamboo skewers and grill on both sides.


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