Summer is hurtling towards us like a runaway train and what screams sunshine more than a good old outdoor shindig? Although the mercury rising would ordinarily be a reason to begin planning fun al fresco events with your nearest and dearest, the status quo means it's time to get a little creative. So why not eschew all previous warnings re screen time and switching off from technology and throw a virtual BBQ?
So how exactly does one go about celebrating summer in the strange old times we live in? Well, it's impossible to do it the old fashioned way, which I'll agree is a bitter pill to swallow, but thanks to modern technology you're able to mix elements of real-life pleasures with the convenience of virtual ones. The aim is to make a sort of remix of the norm. And I've got a step-by-step guide on how to do that.
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Step One: The Invite
Organise a time, a (virtual) space, and, if you're feeling fancy, maybe a dress code. It'll make things feels more special is if everyone dresses up as if they're leaving the house, even if they're not. And why not make things official with a proper invite (via a group message or Google Cal event)? It'll get everyone excited ahead of time.
There are plenty of options out there for how you can all connect in one virtual space (especially since Whatsapp recently upped its limit to eight people per call) but my advice would be to opt for a Zoom call. Yes, I know we're all suffering from Zoom fatigue, but it's the best spot for big groups and is a great option when it comes to sharing audio (more on that later). The only snag is the 40-minute rule, so check in with your group in case anyone has a premium account and can set up a call with unlimited time.
Step Two: The Grill
Get your grill in order. For some people, this simply means wheeling out the beautiful Weber Master and giving it a good scrub. For those with limited space, you may have opted for a more compact option, such as this one from Argos. Although the concept of a disposable BBQ is a tempting one, they just don't pack the same punch, it's a false economy, and they're not that kind to the environment. In other words, they're best avoided. Make sure you place the grill in frame when you're on the video call – after all, it's the centre piece of the event.
Step Three: The Food
Get all the food and booze in. This is where you may see the benefit of having hosting a lockdown event as opposed to a real one: the cost. Unlike an IRL garden party, in this case, all you need do is pick up one block of halloumi and whatever else you want to chuck on the barbie. If you want some sort of gastronomical cohesion between the group, maybe you could arrange a menu beforehand? The same goes for drinks. Cocktails (or mocktails) will definitely make the BBQ feel like more of an event and, lucky for you, we have a list of cocktails you can make with ingredients already in your store cupboard. Because who has time to track down Vermouth at a time like this?! Get a jug of something chilling in the fridge and rejoice that you don't need to fill the bath with ice and booze.
Step Four: The Playlist
Make a playlist. This can be on Soundcloud, Spotify, Youtube, but some independent online radio stations such as Amateurism and NTS have back catalogues of their shows available as well as if you want a constant live stream of top-notch music. Once you've decided on the songs, you have to think about how everyone can listen to them at the same time. This is where Zoom may come in handy, as it has an inbuilt audio-sharing tool. More details can be found here.
For those without outdoor space...
For those without access to any outdoor space, it'll obviously be tricky to host or join a virtual BBQ, but by no means impossible. My suggestion would be investing in a griddle pan and seeking out the sunniest window in your home. After all, the best thing about a BBQ is catching up with your loved ones, and not even lockdown can stop you from doing that.