Today Sunrise, the Channel 7 chirpy breakfast television show posed the probing survey question, ‘do you use the wok-burner-thingy on your barbeque?’ ( ). The suggestion was that it was an unnecessary bit of over-packaging, and of course, such deep issues need discussion and analysis.

The discussion that followed suggested that it was a wifely domain, while the blokes did the important meat turning tasks, real men don’t wok apparently. Images of backyards around the country set up as catering production lines for smoking and tossing food came to mind, along with bickering and elbow knocking and tomato sauce on the toes. I didn’t get back to the show to find out the final result of the poll, maybe it will be on tomorrow. Leaving aside the gender issues, I felt more bemused by the universality implied in the question, that everyone has a barbeque with a wok-burner.

Not being the owner of a barbeque, let alone one with a wok burner thingy I felt somewhat put out by this question. I’ve long felt something of a consumer pariah for not having my own indoor/outdoor patio lifestyle area. Now I feel underprivileged for not having the barbeque either.

I confess to drooling over Barbeque Galore catalogues admiring large shiny barbeques with five burners and griddles and wok burners and thermostats on the roasting lids. They’re the Hummer of home entertaining, the lifestyle statement barbeque, and that much grunt and shine has a hefty price tag (anywhere from moderately expensive to astronomical), incorporating the levy for Acquiring Lifestyle Envy (ALE), the ‘gee what a big barbeque you’ve got’ appeal. So discussions on the marketing differentiation and add-ons that keep piling up, like wok ring size enhancements leave me holding the packed sandwiches from home in the outdoor entertaining stakes.

I’ve often looked at the wok burner and thought goodness, wouldn’t it be interesting to toss the vegetables outside, but then the thought follows but why would you? Apparently, many people who buy them have the same issue, thus the survey. Preparing the vegetables, transferring them outside, tossing them with the sauces and then serving them up seems a process that requires benches, an often under-acknowledged cooking requirement, plus the sink and easy access to the pantry and fridge. Hence, not that much fun out of doors.

The wok burner may be the barbeque equivalent of the microwave programmable casserole buttons, I know of no one who knows how to use all the functions available on their microwave or who has shown much interest in the discovery. What a job that must be, to think up functions that no one will try using? You have to ask yourself what are you going to use your barbeque for? And the answer is generally to burn sausages and steaks, especially if men with beers are left to do it.

Until this Sunrise question was posed I hadn’t even considered how many of these barbeques must spend most of their lives under the black vinyl cover on the outdoor entertaining area gathering the gritty muddy dust of the elements. Though a few seconds contemplation made this seem obvious. Loved for a summer and then left in the rain, wheeled out summers after sporadically, after the glow of new ownership has waned. Like so much stuff we don’t need, and hence don’t use it sits as statement to our excesses. Well, for some, otherwise where would the envy be?

So, while the question initially made me feel even more marginalised from 21st Century life after due consideration, maybe its okay to not have a barbeque with a wok burner in my life. Though I still think the thermostat roasting covers are cool.

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