I almost never host cookouts because I don’t have the outdoor furnishings to accommodate more than my husband and I, and I don’t have an outdoor umbrella to shield us from the sun. I also don’t have a yard really, just a border that runs from the side of my house to the side of what used to be the barn in back.
I had a renewed lesson that having the proper outdoor furniture, while it would be nice, isn’t important at all. What’s important is the gathering of people and food. Put good food, good people and gorgeous weather together and you’ve got a celebration.
I ended up having five friends over on Labor Day. I didn’t know this was going to happen until the evening before.
Our cousin-friends called and asked what we were doing. They had also asked this question when we saw them the week before so it was clear to me that they weren’t planning to do anything. We like hanging with them and they are always wonderful to us so, I said, okay, let’s put something on the grill.
We had a rack of ribs and steak we’d purchased from “whole paycheck” a few weeks prior and some chicken. I had ingredients for a delicious bean and corn salsa. I had a few cans of my favorite Bush’s vegetarian baked beans. I had a quarter of a watermelon and salad fixings I’d purchased on a quick trip to the supermarket on Saturday morning. I had eggs and a couple of potatoes.
I found a recipe for a spice rub for the meats and made a barbecue sauce from scratch. Sent T to the store to get some more watermelon and a few more potatoes (since a potato salad made from two potatoes wouldn’t be enough) and got to preparing. He also brought hotdogs and buns.
We made do with the small ceramic and wrought iron table and two chairs that are always outside and brought up another small table and extra kitchen chairs from the basement. A couple of TV trays were pressed into service to hold food. My first attempt at a small flower garden was in full-bloom and the large containers of leafy plants on our small back porch were in full-leaf.
It was wonderful and I realized, with renewed vigor, that the point is to gather your friends together and celebrate with them right now, right where you are, with what you have. We shouldn’t wait until we have it “all together” (whatever we deem that to be).
A few weeks ago, another friend invited us over to his Dorchester home and we dined by candlelight in his back yard enjoying some of the pickings from his garden. The setting wasn’t elaborate by any means but it was cozy, the food was gourmet-quality good, and we had a great time.
I have vowed that next year, I will have my outdoor furnishings (so everyone will be more comfortable) and my flowers will be more abundant (because I learned a thing or two about my small patch of land this year). Having these things will make me feel more expansive and welcoming. They are important to me, but if somehow that doesn’t happen, rest assured, I will host a few cookouts anyhow.
The point is:
- to come together,
- to share,
- to celebrate the very fact of being alive and having friends.
Our small gathering was another of the lovely experiences I’ve had in this most golden of summers. I look forward to extending the glow through fall.