The Barbecue Unmasked
Since the so-called ‘Freedom Day’ many of us have been able to enjoy our first backyard barbecue. In honour of reclaimed liberties, and his own birthday, one friend purchased a brand new barbecue. Alvaro’s temple of meat took two days to construct and was truly a sacred site around which people could congregate to celebrate the great Aussie ritual of char-grilling while sipping beer and bantering.
The gathering took place on a Saturday evening in a Bondi backyard. Before you default to suburban stereotypes, this was not an assembly of nouveau riche merchant bankers and their botox queens with lips plumper than sausages or hirsute hipsters dribbling craft beer into beards. Amongst our motley, mixed race crew there were industrial designers, soccer coaches, surfers, food distributors, trainers, graphic designers and a medical journalist. The host, Alvaro, was of Chilean descent. Fittingly, his Argentinian friend, Emiliano, arrived with two giant slabs of beef, intent on both testing the merits of the new V8 barbecue and reaffirming his nation’s reputation as proud carnivores. Suddenly my palm-sized scotch fillet looked a little pathetic. The South American influence on proceedings was further evident when the meat was served. Instead of hefty thongs of steak for each person, the meat was sliced into small strips and eaten like a never-ending entree. I happily saw my undersized scotch fillet put to the sword first. It’s a far more social way to eat at a barbecue and the conversation flowed.
Eventually talk turned to the pandemic. Many of us played for the same social soccer team on a Monday night and initially the vax debate had been a source of division. If we started playing again as a group, should the unvaccinated be allowed to play? War had raged on the WhatsApp group.
The personal trainer with a German background logically outlined his reasons for electing not to get the jab. As a fit and healthy forty-something he reasoned he was in a low-risk category. He wasn’t a preachy anti-vaxxer but had done his reading and decided he didn’t want to play low-risk roulette with a vaccine. No one jumped down his throat – nor had COVID, it seemed.
Some looked to the medical journalist to express a firm view on all matters pandemic related. Surely he was the oracle the barbecue needed. However, when pressed for an opinion, he conceded that all that the research really showed was that no one really knows the answers when it comes to the new ‘Big C’.
Attention then turned to Emiliano. Speaking in a loud, twangy accent that celebrated Australia but never forgot Argentina, Emiliano explained that he had been working as a carer for people with special needs who had also contracted COVID. This was a group already in need of full-time attention.
“Imagine a 57-year-old woman with Down Syndrome and dementia who also has COVID,” explained the affable Argentinian.
Emiliano had already been through one personal bout of COVID and indicated that he went to work in a highly-protective suit. One of the guests couldn’t help but ask that awful question, “Do you have to wipe their backsides?” Wary of the jibe, Emiliano dodged the question the first time. Then, when the provoker pushed the button again, the Argentinian launched into a rather colourful anecdote.
“Mate, I love my job. The other night I was at work and an older woman with Down Syndrome and dementia takes off her nappy and starts swinging it around the room and spraying shit everywhere. I had to get in there and clean it up… I love my job because it’s real. It makes you realise how immature you are and you just start laughing and realise you’d probably like to do the same thing too.”
With one vivid recollection, Emiliano had turned a picture of tragedy into a kind of
triumph. Once we picked our jaws up off the ground, he left us staggering with laughter, more than a little ashamed about our own superficial COVID gripes and grateful that plucky individuals such as he were so willing to perform these essential tasks. Needless to say, Emiliano won the day.