Posted in bastards

Zen and the Art of Barbecue Assemblage

bbq001Having noticed the extortionate price of Weber gas (and other) barbecues in France, I cleverly bought one in the UK and shipped it over at Easter with my wife, who was on her own with one of the kids, with plenty of room in the car.

(The box was BIG.)

I bought a Spirit 320, a three-burner model with a side burner, which gives me garden cooking equipment superior to the ancient and unreliable butane gas cooker in the kitchen of our house in France. I was there last week and used it almost every day, cooking a roast chicken, pizzas, and the usual barbecue fare such as burgers and sausages… once I got it assembled.

I was quite pleased with myself, by the time I’d reached the stage illustrated above. By then, I’d usually have put something on back to front and upside down, but managed to do everything right this time. It was all going swimmingly in fact, right up to the point where I was ready to get some gas and connect it to the propane regulator.

My brother-in-law was immediately skeptical. As far as he knew, everyone in France used butane. We went next door to see what my wife’s uncle had connected to his (almost identical) Weber: turned out to be butane. Mine had arrived with a Propane regulator. We could have picked up our spare propane gas bottle in England and carried it to France, but the Channel Tunnel really has a thing against gas on the trains, for some reason. Camping gas… okay. Big bottles of propane? No so much.

Anyway, as so many people in rural France use gas bottles, there are plenty of places to buy. We stopped on the way to check out a petrol station’s offering, but the range was, frankly, bewildering. At our local garden centre in England, you’ve got a choice of propane or butane. In France, both gases are available, but from a wide range of manufacturers, all with different valve systems.

We went to Intermarché and bought a couple of small bottles of propane. We were given regulators to use with these, which would mean removing the one that came with the barbecue. We were immediately out of my comfort zone. In a sane universe, a propane bottle would have a standard valve/connector, so you wouldn’t have to faff around like this. But we live under capitalism, and capitalism is wasteful. Of course the connecting valve was unique to the manufacturer. I tried taking bits apart, to see if there was a place I could marry the hose to a valve somewhere, but it turned out not to be possible.

So I went to the local hardware store (la quincaillerie, great word) and bought a whole new hose. That should be standard fit, right? It said on it it would work with domestic cookers, gas bottles, and barbecues. Took it home. Not a standard fit.

Luckily my brother-in-law, who is technophobic when it comes to using computers and mobile phones, is a proper engineer. He built his own house. He can fix a broken mobile phone, even though he hates using them. He once fixed a broken camera zoom. We called him. He came around, and with a fair amount of cussing and complaining, managed to fit the propane regulator that came with the gas bottles to the hose that came with the Weber. Unlike a similar fix achieved by myself, which might have involved gaffer tape and scissors, his fix is permanent and, you know, safe.

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World famous writer labouring in obscurity. My other blog is a Porsche.