Posts Tagged Grill
Sharing a picnic or a barbecue in the great outdoors is one of the simple yet great pleasures in life. The food is satisfying, the aroma sooths your mood, there is carefree conversation and laughter. Even the children/parent relationship benefits from the atmosphere of the barbecue because this is an occasion when sharing a meal does not mean strict table manners will be enforced. The barbecue is festive and relaxed by nature.
On the other hand, if you have invited guests over, you want everyone to have enough and you want them to enjoy the food you will share with them. Admit it, sometimes you spend as much on a typical summer barbecue with friends than you would on a formal dinner. You just want it to be a meal to remember.
Here are just a few ideas for a touch of restraint that will not in the least prevent a majestic and memorable outcome. I will begin with the one tip that many will frown upon… until you see the twist we will give it.
1- Leave the paper and plastic plates on the store shelf. Yes, they are recyclable and yes they save time, but they cost something every time and how often do they really end up in the recycling bin? Here is an alternative and a twist.
Buy a set of unbreakable dishes you will use strictly when you host barbecues or birthday parties and invite your regular barbecue guests (those lifelong friends you invite everywhere because you are always on the same wavelength) to buy their own. Here is the twist: The hosts never use their own serving dishes or utensils. The guests bring theirs to share and bring them back home to clean. I can almost guarantee your friends will approve of this idea.
2- Make it a bring-your-own-meat event. Not only does this mean everyone shares in the cost, but it also means you do not have to figure out how much to buy of one type of meat as opposed to another and who likes what. If children will be present, it is far easier for their parents to decide what will be required. Bring-your-own-drink goes without saying, but I just thought I’d remind you.
3- Buy it with the bone. Bone-in meat can cost a bit less because it was not processed as much. In addition to this, bones seem to reduce the chance of the meat drying out on the grill and they add flavor. A note: if dogs or even cats are amongst your guests, make sure they do not get a hold of the bones.
4- Did you stock up on charcoal? Buy it in between barbecue seasons and you will pay less.
Do you have barbecuing tricks and traditions you would like to share? We’d love to read about it. Recipes too!
Share the bounty… of knowledge, passion and skills…
1- Host a picnic -
Your theme: Over the fence. Your guests: At least 4 neighbors, with preference to neighbors you do not know very well yet. Your mission: Fire up the grill, share the bounty of the garden, talk, laugh, share gardening tips, life stories, wisdom and jokes. One condition: Your guests will take turns hosting a picnic at a time of their choice this summer, to which they will invite neighbors they do not know well yet.
2- Host a chef’s workshop -
You have mastered the art of the smoothie or the art of canning. Get playful invitation cards. Hand-deliver them to neighbors who have just recently started gardening. Invite them to a friendly “how-to” workshop. They must bring their own produce and you will supply some as well. Share your favorite smoothie combinations, discuss companion flavors and storage tips, explain the canning process and, most importantly, convey your passion.
3- Start a garden show -
Well, not literally. This time, instead of inviting neighbors over, offer your services in their own garden. You’ll want to identify community members who are new to gardening. Offer to share your own gardening secrets. Set a time and bring your wheelbarrow filled with your favorite, most indispensable gardening tools. Bring a jug of iced tea and a garden seat. Begin by asking what baffles them most. Go from there. Let your passion speak.
4- Start a neighborhood garden and kitchen swap -
No, you are not going to swap living quarters, though sometimes I think that could be a fun and even enlightening thing to do. Instead of having a yard sale to trim down the kitchen or workshop, host a swap. You never know what will show up.
Sometimes it is difficult to let go of things, but when you know that it will have significance to someone else as much as it did for you, it makes giving something away a lot more meaningful and rewarding. You have two blenders? Give one away. A young neighbor with limited funds may discover great joy in the kitchen thanks to the one appliance she dreamed of but could not afford. This is the sort of “great find” that can literally change a life. She may in turn bring along a colorful garden seat/tool tote that makes your eyes open wide. It is just the thing you need. It so happens you like to paint in the garden and this garden seat with convenient storage pockets is perfect for your painting supplies, and you find it inspiring too.
5- Hire a young gardener or chef -
Invite your neighbor’s children and teens to make a few dollars while helping you in the garden or kitchen. It does not have to be a full-blown summer job; just a bit of help here and there. This will be a great experience in socialization and skills learning. Giving them a few dollars for their efforts is fair and honors their accomplishments and the value of their assistance (even if you are just pretending to need help).
Do one thing at a time. In the garden, show them how to use the cultivator, give them a goal to take on the task for 30 minutes or an hour and walk away. This is your way of expressing trust. Do not expect perfection. The perfection is in the act of doing, not in the outcome.
The same applies in the kitchen. Demonstrate a simple task and let the child complete it. It could be as simple as slicing the fruit for a canning project or filling each jar in the proper manner for the process. Make sure to send them home with a jar of their own to proudly share, in addition to a few dollars. Again, the financial reward is symbolic. It is an acknowledgment of the child’s value in your eyes.
6- Make up your own variation – What will it be?
Who does not have fond memories of a family picnic? Unless of course this was an occasion when the older children found more opportunities to pick on the little guys, but you know what they say, “we tyrannize those we love most.”
Let’s hope this is your experience and that today, as adults with children of your own, you can gather at family picnics and laugh as you recall earlier times with your siblings: “Mom, do you remember the time Jeannette threw half of my hamburger into the woods as soon as dad took it off the grill at a family picnic and I was crying and you let me have her dessert and then she was crying, and then we forgot all about it because we had so much fun building a little hut out of branches?”
There is something different about a picnic. It is not quite like other mealtime gatherings. With picnics, there is an added sense of playfulness; as though it were OK to be a little more relaxed, a little more laid back. Also, picnics provide additional freedom in the way of table manners. One must be proper and respectful, of course, but it’s OK to reach over for the butter and to help yourself and it’s OK to eat to your heart’s content. Picnics are about abundance and freedom. You don’t have to finish all your veggies at a picnic, but you do anyway, just because you don’t have to. The picnic is an impromptu affair in the sense that it lacks the rigorous order of a formal meal. This “lack” is in fact a great blessing.
A New York Times, May 26, 1912 article titled, “What Usually Happened on the Old-Fashioned Picnic,” illustrates the romantic early 20th century picnic most of us know thanks to movies: “Picnics! Yep, picnics come to my mind with thoughts of Memorial Day just as I see stockings hanging by the fireplace at the mention of Christmas,” writes the author. “When I was a youngster we went on a picnic every May 30, regardless of anything short of a cloudburst… and we invariably went forth on that day to eat things off a tablecloth spread on the ground… according to tradition, all eatables were provided by the feminine portion of the party. We weren’t hard to please. A few cold fried chickens, some peanut sandwiches, a big paper sack full of Saratoga chips, some potato salad in a fruit jar… and a freeze of strawberry ice cream …were practically all we expected at a picnic dinner in those days… It was customary for people who went on picnics to go a certain spot where there was a small river the size of a creek… The advantages of this place were that it was twelve miles away, which meant a long drive home by moonlight…”
Today, we drive our cars to the picnic and though we certainly hope for the day to linger, somehow stretching the sensation of passing time beyond the ordinary, we also value the ability to pack up and be home in a relatively short time. Ironic, in a way, isn’t it? In addition to this, the space age has changed how we travel, even to picnics. Incidentally, one of the first residential barbecue grills was nicknamed “Sputnik” due to its hemispherical shape. It appeared on the popular market in 1952. It used charcoal. The gas grill appears on the market in 1960. It was invented by two employees of the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company whose responsibility it was to develop new ways of selling natural gas to residential customers.
As I began to mention, the space age has transformed the picnic tradition by bringing into our daily lives a new appreciation for practical design. Thus, while well into the 19th century picnics preserved an air of formality as tables, tablecloths and fine dinnerware were brought along in order to have a proper “dining” atmosphere, since about the 1960′s it is clever storage devices that we bring along for the festive event. These keep our lives organized and tidy, even in the great outdoors.
From the pop-up canopy to the compact portable grill, to the cleverly convenient grill and cooler trolley; from the elegant wine tote (wine requires proper decorum after all) to amazingly compact folding barbecues, the accessories that accompany Americans on picnics every year are ever more refined for ease of use and portability. Not only are we prepared for a well-organized picnic, but our outdoor leisure equipment doubles as emergency gear with pizazz, if necessary.
Europe’s Medieval hunters began the hunt with great decorum, which included a feast shared in the great outdoors. Many historians consider this to be the beginning of the picnic tradition. It was an affair of high society then, and through many centuries thereafter, where participants wore their finest attire. Our modern, laid-back attitude would have shocked our distant European cousins, certainly. Imagine their dismay at the sight of shorts, sleeveless shirts, bathing suits and other shall we say casual attires we take for granted since the mid-1900′s. This reminds me of a very good novel by Mark Twain. It is titled “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” I recommend it very highly.
Today, we picnic with class but without encumbrance. Ho! and be sure to bring a good book.