BBQ magazine Summer 2021
I think that inside most adult men – I asked four women before I wrote this sentence and they all said ‘no’ with some intensity – rests a desire to be wild and earthy and free. This probably explains the motorbikes and beards and short-lived dedications to weightlifting or CrossFit, but I think there are easier ways to make yourself feel like a humble Ray Mears/Rambo hybrid.
Like lots of you, I imagine, I’m a sucker for staged, paradisiacal photos on Insta-sham. Not the $80m villas in LA with 17 swimming pools and room for a fleet of virtue-signalling electric cars, nor the 11ft Adonis with 12 visible abdominals and not a single hair below his threaded eyebrows.
No, I prefer the photos and videos of folks rolling into the woods or onto a beach in their old Land Rover, lighting a fire, and cooking something uber tasty like it’s a piece of toast, or even cake.
There is a reality to this ideal that ruins it somewhat: you can very rarely, in my experience, actually drive onto a beach, right down to the water, in your family car. Firstly, it will almost certainly get stuck, but you will also likely be approached and threatened by Clive, the beach warden in his characterless pickup. His Border Collie won’t be bothered, but his life’s work is to keep you from cutting loose on his sandy turf. And you’ll get stuck. This isn’t a Landie thing, it’s a car on sand thing. It looks fabulous, but it’s basically an awful idea.
Still, though, this is a vision that suits my imagination, and I remain determined to be that enviably wild guy doing rugged things and showing his kids that there’s more to life than homicidally bad fake haunted house videos on YouTube. So I find a way.
The thing is, though, I’m not exactly roughing it and living off the land. Ray Mears would turn in his Gore-Tex socks, and Rambo would just shoot me with a crossbow. I do Wilderness Dave (self-appointed nickname that nobody else will use) my own way, and it’s admittedly somewhat more luxurious than those guys in the woods on social media.
My mate has a farm about a mile from my house in Bath. It’s quite a rubbish farm, as far as I can make out, as there are no animals or crops on it – ever. I think it might just be land that he owns that he likes to call a farm because it makes him feel, well, cooler. I totally get that, hence the wilderness piece.
I sent him a text asking to pop into one of his fields for a bit. I didn’t do this out of politeness, but to stop his ‘helper’ Flo – Flo has a truck with RSJs for bumpers but no official address or bank account, you work it out – kicking me off aggressively and emasculating me in front of my daughters, Sophia and Mieke.
Permission granted, I whack my Wolf and Grizzly portable grill and my Traeger Ranger into the boot of my Range Rover, along with some kindling and some Big K lumpwood charcoal, and a load of grub from Field & Flower – my heroes; I love them.
In the interests of transparency, my Range Rover is smugly specced, with these days in mind, with domestic plug sockets, meaning I can run my Traeger like a tailgating redneck American Football fan anywhere I want. It makes the velour headlining smell, but it’s a good smell.
It’s freezing, obviously, so the kids wrap up super warm and, having been forced by shouting to get out of the car and off their heated massage seats, are instructed to go and find some twigs and sticks to burn on the grill. It’s wet, obviously, so their sticks are all useless, but they like to feel involved, a bit like Clive’s Border Collie. I wait until they’re looking away and toss their entire haul into a bush.
The Traeger Ranger – I usually bring my Kamado Joe Junior too and I’ve been known to have five small grilling options on these days, but a mate has borrowed the Junior – is quickly up to temp via the plug in the car boot and I put on some extra cheddar and jalapeño sausages from Sosij (lushness) and close the lid.
Onto the brilliant Wolf and Grizzly I put some bacon and a little pan for some eggs, with brioche buns coming last minute. I love this grill as it literally slots into a rucksack like it isn’t there, but you can cook proper food on it.
Plates in hand, the kids collect their protein hits with glee and sit down on the Yeti floor mat that cost a lot and was worth every single pound and smother their breakfast baps with ketchup.
We sit and chomp and laugh. Having had to force the girls to come, as ever, they are as happy as two happy little things as we live out daddy’s wild daydreams, before getting them back onto heated leather and putting a slightly age-inappropriate DVD on for them to watch while I load the now-cooled grills and paraphernalia back into the car.
The sumptuous V8 rumbles into life, and it’s off we go. Not quite John J. Rambo, but it’ll do for us. Wild days indeed.
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