Thursday, August 13, 2009

Barbies, and I Don't Mean Those Plastic Dolls

Several years ago while walking down the narrow cobble stone streets of Utrera, I came across woman standing outside of a home with her face pressed against the bars of the patio gate. Though I could not see the woman’s face I knew she was an older person by her stature, and manner of dress. She was a tiny little thing (didn't even come up to my shoulders), and was dressed from head to toe in black. I assumed that she was a local viuda--widow-- but could not figure out what business she could have at this particular house since I knew that it was the home of Major Peter from the local American Air Force Base. As I approached, I slowed down to see what she was observing. There, in the middle of the Spanish tiled patio, had to be the largest bar-b-cue grill I had ever seen. Sensing that I had stopped, the older woman turned and grabbed my arm. In almost a whisper she asked, "What is that, is it some kind of car?” Rather than replying, “Why it's a grill you crazy old bat,” I took on the role of cross-cultural ambassador (one I often had to play in a small town in rural Spain) and explained what the grill was. When I finished, she looked at me like I was crazy and slowly walked off, muttering to herself.
I cannot imagine that same scene ever occurring here in Australia. I have seen more barbies here in OZ than anywhere else that I have traveled. I am not talking about privately owned grills, but ones for public use as well. When I say public, I don’t mean a little bar-b-cue pit at the park, where you are expected to bring your own charcoal, matches and lighter fuel. Here in Australia the public grills are self-lighting gas or electric. They are well maintained and often they are for use free of charge. You can find them everywhere. We have seen them, often in use, at National Parks, Rest Areas, and in the smallest towns.
The public barbie is one of those things that I really like about Australia. I find that they make public spaces more inviting, cleaner and user friendly. They help cut down on fire-hazard in the forests because they are either electric, and, if they are gas the flame is enclosed. Finally they are great if you are on the road and want something warm to eat. Recently, when making a motel reservation we were told there was a kitchenette. When we got there we only had a small fridge, but no worries, we just headed to the local park to cook up our tucker.

Our 4th of July at a Public Barbie

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