We had friends over today, and as we didn't have a barbecue for a long while, and as the weather was fine (thank you), we thought we'd do a barbecue for lunch.
So we went in the morning to our favorite meat place in Hampton Street, and got ourselves a couple of prime time (as in well aged) eye fillets, one porterhouse, and one almost one kilo long rump steak (for me).
Jo has times the supplementary stuff to go along with the meat (potatoes, onions and mushrooms), and 20 minutes before these were ready I took the cover off our backyard barbecue to start the action.
I opened the barbecue lead, and saw small round pellets at the top of the plates where you put the food. It was, quite obviously, shit.
At first I thought this was possum shit, because we get lots of it under every tree, and there's a possum epidemic in our area. Possums are protected in the state of Victoria: you are not even allowed to move them without a license (whereas in New Zealand, for example, they're a fair go).
Possums may be nasty, but there is no way they could have got themselves into the barbecue. So our friends offered the more logical explanation: It was actually rats that visited our barbecue. It explained two things: Rats could have slipped through the cracks to get in; they would like to get in, as they would be able to eat the small bits of meat that are left there; and the shit was a bit smaller than your average possum shit.
Regardless of source, seeing shit on where you're supposed to be putting your food is not exactly appetizing. I regretted not having Wabby the rat killer (my brother's Jack Russell dog) with us for quite a while, because he would have never allowed a rodent of any sorts to slip under his radar (he goes berserk at the mere scent of one in a neighbor's backyard).
I cleaned the shit off. Then I warmed the barbecue up to 250 degrees and gave it a good 10 minutes to feel the heat, and then I actually had to let it cool a bit before cleaning it with some water and vinegar and scraping the leftovers off.
It took longer than anticipated, but eventually we did have our steaks and they were as good as ever. I'm getting better with the timing of it all to get the best results; but the lesson is: we should have more barbecues, so the rats would not have the opportunity to have their parties in between.