by Mike McHugh
My wife loves to entertain, and in the summertime that means a backyard barbecue. And a backyard barbecue means that yours truly assumes the cooking duties. This, I believe, is why she likes to have guests over this time of year, so that she can laze around in the pool with all our friends while I’m running back and forth like a man possessed, wondering where she put my grilling utensils.
She always puts them in a different kitchen drawer, among other places. Once I found them stowed away in my tool chest. The worst of it was that I couldn’t even remember where I kept my tool chest. I think it was her subtle way of reminding me of the work that needed to be done on our fence.
The primary excuse for our most recent backyard fling was to celebrate several friends’ birthdays. That’s the thing about having a large circle of friends. No matter what the time of year, it’s bound to be somebody’s birthday, and of course, you’ve got to celebrate it. You can’t leave someone out and deny him the occasion to receive enough gifts of cheap wine to keep every bum in the French Quarter happy for a year.
Another excuse was that we needed to christen the new bar that I’d bought at a silent auction. We’d decided to name it the “Coconut Bar,” after a decoratively carved coconut that my daughter had given me for Father’s Day and graced its top. I thought it a wonderful gift, certainly better than a tie, especially considering that the “Tie Bar” doesn’t have much of a ring to it.
The normal practice at our barbecues is that I provide the meat and each guest brings a side dish. It’s a common arrangement, except that my wife adds the stipulation that the guests must take their leftovers home after the party. She does make an exception in isolated cases, particularly when it involves a veggie tray. That she knows I won’t be anxious to gobble it up at the first opportunity, as I would, say, a peach cobbler.
By the same reasoning, she also insists on buying the meat herself. She’ll carefully calculate exactly how many pounds it would take to feed everyone with none left over. She’s so good at it that if MIT had a Home Economics department, they’d make her the chairwoman.
Of course, no backyard barbecue is complete without a swimming pool. Ours is an above-ground installation, making it the equivalent of a house trailer as pools go. But the guests don’t seem to mind, particularly given the large deck we had built around it, which in itself cost so much that we’d have probably made out better if we’d bought our own lake.
The highlight of our recent party was when I set the barbecue pit on fire. Luckily, this occurred after I’d taken the meat off, in a misguided attempt to burn the fat deposits off of the grate. I mention this a s a caution to readers who might get a similar idea. In my case, the pit spewed so much smoke that a Native American tribe picked it up and answered the signal from thirty miles away.
I can’t interpret smoke signals, but my friend Jimmy, who christened the bar for us, claims that he can. He told me that the response was something along the lines of, “Check out this pale-faced dimwit.”
© 2014 by Mike McHugh