When I bought a kamado grill (a fancy BBQ), I joined a Facebook group to help me up the learning curve and set the tone when I posted my first question querying what looked like a crack in the fire bowl only to be ridiculed by a lot of men (only men) who told me it was supposed to be there to allow for heat expansion.
In the days that followed, it became apparent that men (only men) take outdoor cooking incredibly seriously.
Everyone was recommending different temperature devices, some with four probes, for making sure the cooking heat is within the accuracy tolerance of something being measured in the Large Hadron Collider.
“I just put it in until it’s done,” I tell my daughter who is unsurprised by the fastidiousness of the male-dominated temperature gauge brigade.
One or two things have emerged a little charred but, on the whole, I don’t really understand why there needs to be so much complication.
“Yeah well, you’re not a typical man are you?” my daughter says, without expanding further
Editing the latest episode of “Sideways” something uncomfortable strikes me.
A lot of the material I remove from our weekly recordings is my repetition of a point I have just made with the words ordered differently.
It turns out I’m not so different from “the temperature police”. We’re both anxious and doubt our ability to get things right without additional information.
I know that over-explanation springs from fear and guilt.
I do worry about being misunderstood, judged harshly, or that if I don’t make my motivation absolutely clear someone might take against me and conclude me to be selfish or worse (although I can’t think of much worse than being seen as self-obsessed).
“Do I tend to over-explain things when I’m talking to you? I mean, do I tell you the same things over and over when it isn’t necessary?”
My daughter narrows her eyes and smiles.
“Am I self-obsessed?”
“No, you’ve just been writing a blog about yourself every week for over a decade.”
“It’s not about me really. I just use myself as a useful conduit to make a point, and anyway, I’m usually the one who ends up looking like a fool.”
I don’t know whether she was joking, which is uncomfortable.
The opinion my children hold of me is the one I seem to be most anxious about.
I plan out dinners for the Bank Holiday weekend trying to shift things around through frantic scribbles on a piece of paper so that neither of my children misses out on their favourite food.
This is a bewilderingly daft project as my son isn’t even living at home currently.
“Are you in for dinner at the weekend?” I ask my daughter.
“I’m in Friday and Saturday, but not Sunday.”
“Oh, well Tom is back on Sunday and I was going to do pizza, but you won’t want to miss out on that, so perhaps I can do that on Saturday.”
I check the weather to see that Saturday isn’t the best day for outdoor cooking and eating, throwing my carefully made plans into disarray.
Soon my children won’t be around much at all and the “who is in for dinner?” text will be unnecessary.
Perhaps over-complication is not only about fear and guilt but also about avoidance. A way to push aside adjustments that feel as if they are coming too fast in a way that makes me want to create a level of complexity that shields me from reality.
Maybe four-probe thermometers are what we buy when the people we were responsible for don’t need us so much any longer so that we can lose ourselves in a level of detail that isn’t strictly necessary but stops us from feeling alone.