BBQ Etiquette for the Catholic Gentleman

June 24, 2021

As we start enjoying vernal and summer evenings, the great Canadian barbecue season has arrived. As Catholic gentlemen, we can partake and share such an important culinary and social tradition to renew and foster bonds, friendships and Catholic values.

Many are those who show their hospitality by hosting a barbecue.

The main advantage of a barbecue is that you can eat and entertain outdoors, basking in glorious sunshine; so beneficial for your mind, body and soul.

The Journal of Happiness Studies (2021) states that being outdoors is associated with higher emotional well-being, significantly higher positive affect and lower negative feelings, adding that “there is a wealth of evidence showing that being outdoors is associated with wide-ranging positive outcomes in terms of emotional well-being” (Stieger, Lewetz & Swami).  Therefore, in times of social constraints due to the coronavirus, “the ability to spend time outdoors is likely to take on added importance vis-à-vis emotional well-being,” the authors point out. To that end, a barbecue can be just the ticket.

As a host, prepare for your barbecue event, and for the vagaries of the weather by having some blankets at hand for your guests, even a fire pit ready for a cool evening.

The informality of a barbecue also requires to make it as comfortable as possible for your guests. Therefore, plan carefully so that they can feel welcome, relax, eat well and enjoy each other’s company.

Before your guests arrive, ensure the gas canister is full, lite the BBQ and have it ready, so that they don’t have to wait too long.

Before the event, make sure everything is prepared: arrange seating, a serving table or individual side tables, cutlery, crockery and napkins.

Large coloured napkins are more festive than plain white. A stack of smaller cocktail or luncheon-sized napkins should suffice.

Plastic plates or sturdy paper plates, plastic utensils and disposable cups makes the cleanup easier, and it’s practical when holding a barbecue outdoors, rather than on your deck or patio for a small number of guests, in which case you might prefer to use your own dinnerware and utensils. They don’t need to match styles and patterns.

Provide enough comfortable seats for the party. It can be challenging to have to juggle food and drink while having to stand, and perching on a rickety and unsteady chair is never that enjoyable. A table where guests can place their plates and drinks, instead of their laps, is better.

Make sure there is shade. If it’s too hot, you can make available sunscreen. Also, if there are mosquitos, provide mosquito repellant.

Offer plentiful supplies of ice-cold water and cold soft drinks to keep guests hydrated. It will also help last the provision of wine and beer.

If the weather gets a bit cold, you can offer hot coffee and tea.

Be mindful of your neighbours. A barbecue can be highly aromatic and smoky, depending on wind direction and the cook’s ability. Place your BBQ as far away as possible from the house.

When playing music, choose the music in advance, and be considerate. Don’t play the music too loud that would make conversation difficult, and disturb your neighbours. Check the noise city bylaws, and until what time you are allowed to play music.

If you are a guest, tell your host immediately whether you will be attending, so that he can plan accordingly.

Be on time. Arrive at or shortly after the time stated; fifteen minutes is OK. Do not, however, arrive early.

Barbecues are, by definition, informal, and meant to be enjoyed. Encourage your guests to help themselves to bread, salads and drinks. If they offer to help you with cooking, serving drinks or handing food round, accept their offer graciously.

Remember that your barbecue is not to be the Great Bake Off. You are not in that TV show, so don’t show off. Your guests are not there to applaud your BBQ prowess. Ridiculous aprons, silly chef’s hats, boasting and bragging while barbecuing is inappropriate. Your guests came to eat, socialise and have a good time.

Don’t boast, don’t be arrogant, and don’t be rude (1 Corinthians 13:4). Avoid rudeness and the risk to offend, even unwittingly, by being aware of conventions of politeness, facial expressions, hand gestures, body posture, language, your conversation, tone of voice, type of and appropriateness of clothing, appearance, personal grooming, and cleanliness.

St. Francis of Sales, in his Introduction to a Devout Life, ch. 27, says: “Beware most watchfully against ever uttering any unseemly expression; even though you may have no evil intention, those who hear it may receive it with a different meaning. An impure word falling upon a weak mind spreads its infection like a drop of oil on a garment, and sometimes it will take such a hold of the heart, as to fill it with an infinitude of lascivious thoughts and temptations.” He adds: “Those who cherish the angelic virtues of purity and modesty, will always speak simply, courteously, and modestly. As to unclean and light-hearted talk, St. Paul says that those things should not even be named among us, for, as he elsewhere tells us: “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” whereas good manners touch the lives of those who experience them. Manners can be a mark of Christian charity.

As they arrive, ask them what they’d like to drink, while telling them what drinks you can offer them. As you hand over the drinks, mention they’re welcome to help themselves to drinks.

Have garbage bags handy to collect periodically empty cans and used paper plates. Keep them out sight.

Ensure the health and safety for you and your guests, and be aware also about bacteria and possible food contamination. Follow proper food safety and hygiene: wash your hands before and after cooking and eating, use utensils, do not double dip, and refrain from licking your fingers; it’s unhygienic, unsightly and ungentlemanly.

Don’t overindulge. Eating as you are starving will attract the wrong type of attention to you, and it would leave less food for others. Pace yourself, and do not fill your plate to the brim. Have seconds instead. The Rule of St. Benedict specifically instructs “not to be given to much wine” and “not to be gluttonous.” Temperance being one the four cardinal virtues.

Keep the consumption of alcoholic drinks on the moderate to low side. St. Paul even recommends such libation: “Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake” (1 Timothy 5:23). However, he also says: “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is luxury; but be ye filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

As your guests leave, tell them how much you enjoyed their company.

Thank your host upon leaving, and a second time the following day by phone, email or with a written thank-you note. It’s a gracious gesture that will be truly appreciated.

The recipe for a good barbecue is to ensure that food, drinks, company, conversation and manners are good. Good barbecues are the sinews of good memories.

St. Paul already knew how you should conduct yourself before others: “Let not then our good be evil spoken of. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in this serveth Christ, pleaseth God, and is approved of men. Therefore let us follow after the things that are of peace; and keep the things that are of edification one towards another. Destroy not the work of God for meat. All things indeed are clean: but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good not to eat flesh, and not to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother is offended, or scandalized, or made weak. Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God. Blessed is he that condemneth not himself in that which he alloweth” (Romans 14: 16-22).

Meanwhile, St. Benedict in Rule No. 53 sets out how to receive guests:

“Let all guests that happen to come be received as Christ, because He is going to say: “A Guest was I and ye received Me.” And let suitable honour be shewn to them all, especially to those who are of the household of the faith and to strangers.” They should be met by the superior [in your case, you as the host] or “by the brethren with all due courtesy.”

Basically, and following St. Paul’s teaching, just show hospitality without grumbling, be patient, be kind, and rejoice always.

St. Francis of Sales is the patron saint of good manners. St. Julian the Hospitaller is the patron saint of hospitality, and St. Martha, who “was busy about much serving” Jesus Christ when she “received him into her house” (Luke 10: 38-42), is the patron saint of servants and cooks. Her feast day is July 29th, an appropriate day to host a barbecue.

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Author
Jesús Miguel García

Jesús Miguel García was born in Burgos, Spain. He graduated from the University of Valladolid as the top student, and went on to pursue further studies at the University of Newcastle, UK, with the prestigious Erasmus scholarship from the European Union. He specialised in Education and Philology. He has taught for 30 years, primarily in universities in England and Canada. In 2003, Jesús founded The Spanish Institute.

He is a Research Fellow at St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba. Jesús has a weekly internat radio program (www.magnificatmedia.com) where he talks about Latin, etymology and the Catholic cultural capital. He has received The 10 Most Influential Hispanic Canadians Award, MTS Pioneers Business Award, and the Star of the City Hospitality Award from the Mayor of Winnipeg. The Spanish newspaper Diario de Burgos has called him “ambassador of the Spanish language in Canada”, while the Winnipeg Free Press said he is “internationally recognized as a premier linguistic instructor.” The former Deputy Premier of Manitoba wrote he is “the leading Spanish-language specialist in this province.”

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