BBQ season is here now that the warm weather has arrived. Don't put away those winter jackets though. As the Taiwanese say, only put them away after Dragon Boat festival. The meaning is that there could be cold snaps until that time.
We've had three successive BBQ weekends now. Where the BBQ tradition came from for Taiwan is anyone's guess (particularly for Mid-Autumn Festival). All these BBQs and the preparation they require got me thinking about why Taiwanese don't buy gas BBQs to do their BBQing at home? Do Taiwanese actually like dirty charcoal and its smoke? Do they actually embrace the inconvenience? Do they actually embrace the mess? Ok I take back the last one...
Face it, what is more inconvenient than BBQ on a tiny grill sitting on the ground in front of the home? Or what about trying to get the damn charcoal to light?
Well I did get a couple of plausible reasons for Taiwanese not buying a decent gas BBQ. First is the flavor. Like the Japanese, Taiwanese insist the charcoal gives the food a distinct flavor. This is why BBQ restaurants still only use charcoal and therefore require elaborate fume hoods to take away the smoke indoors.
Second is that Taiwanese believe that food should not be directly on gas. Cooking with a pot or pan between the food and the gas element is ok but the gas will affect the food (read poison).
In all my years here, I've only met one person who owns a gas BBQ. I have even tested a student who worked in a gas BBQ import/export company here who was astounded when I asked her the question why they didn't sell any gas BBQs on the local market. It had never occurred to her to do so. Just ship them out to America!
For now Taiwanese seem content to squat by pathetic little grills, set on the ground, for hours trying to feed the mass of starving family members. This will continue for the short term in all likelihood.