Those of us in The States are getting ready to celebrate the 235th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in a few days. Americans traditionally celebrate the day with a parade and picnic or barbecue followed by fireworks.
A couple of years ago, I hosted what seemed like (to me) a disastrous Fourth of July barbecue. In that spirit, I decided to pull out my vintage entertaining books to see what Emily Post, Charlotte Adams, and even Betty Crocker have to say about ensuring a successful barbecue or picnic. Here is what they suggest adapted for the modern world:
- Keep it simple! Emily Post tells us, “The perfect picnic manager…brings simplification down to an exact science.” Avoid, if at all possible, those television programs that show us how to have a “perfect” picnic or barbecue. The hostess of those shows has a whole staff helping her make everything look perfect. Remember: Less is more.
- Provide shade or an awning if your barbecue will be held during sunlight. Even in the late afternoon, some guests may be sensitive to sunlight. Even with powerful SPF, I’ve been known to get a sunburn during the late afternoon.
- Check your equipment and storage situation…today! I can’t emphasize this enough. You don’t want to be running around trying to solve equipment or storage problems mere hours before everyone arrives.
- Does everything work?
- Is there enough fuel for your fire?
- Do you have room in your fridge for the picnic food?
- Do you have room in your freezer for ice (buying that side of beef seemed like a good idea for the barbecue but…)?
- Do you have enough (large) garbage cans and recycling bins? We’ve all been to those parties. You know what I’m talking about.
- Do you have bug repellent candles to keep your guests from being eaten alive?
- Do you have a full lighter (ask me how I know about this one)?
- Provide plenty of non-alcoholic and rehydrating beverages. You can never go wrong with water!
- Plan and prepare a “cook ahead” menu. The less cooking or running around you have to do on that day, the better you’ll be able to enjoy your guests.
- Plan your menu carefully so that it provides a balance of party food and real food…especially if your barbecue will be an all-day into evening event. You don’t want your guests getting sugar headaches. This is a great day to enjoy fresh fruit such as watermelon and grapes and vegetables such as corn on the cob and zucchini. I personally love to munch on radishes and cucumber slices.
- Create a checklist and schedule. Assign tasks to various family members so that they just need to look at the checklist to see what they should be doing and when. Don’t forget to plan a cooking schedule, too!
- Have board and lawn games on hand for children and adults. You might want to play American Independence trivia by researching some little known facts on the Internet and seeing how well everyone knows their American history. Load up your MP3 player with traditional American music and play “name that tune.”
- Finally, if you are going to have fireworks, please, please, please make sure they are legal in your neighborhood. If they are not, don’t use them. No matter what. Even if your favorite uncle brought them. It is highly disrespectful to your neighbors to use them if they are not legal. Yes, I’m adamant about this. I live in a extra high fire risk zone and our whole neighborhood lights up with fireworks even though they are illegal. More than once my husband has had to wet down the remains of a firework that landed in our yard that wasn’t done burning. We can’t enjoy our holiday because we are afraid that our neighborhood is going to go up in flames.
Careful prepping and planning will enable you to relax and enjoy your company. But even an expert like Betty Crocker can run into a guest from H-e-double-toothpicks. “She” writes, “‘Don’t ever ask that guy again!’ I heard a host say to his wife about a too-busy guest who was stirring the fire, turning steaks, and adding ingredients to the sauce without being asked.”
Did I forget any suggestions?
To your fabulous Technicolor life!
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