“The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.” Field of Dreams.
Summer does this to me. It all hit me oddly enough when escorting my 98-year-old grandmother from lunch. As we were standing in her senior living facility, I heard Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” In that moment, I was overwhelmed with the presence of my dad, her son. Brubeck was Dad’s go to music. It was for a moment like a nod from beyond that he was okay and was proud of me and happy to see us together. I am 45, and I’m not sure why it felt so needed and important to have that but it practically buckled my knees with impact of emotion.
What could all this possibly have to do with food? Well, it opened a flood gate of summer time with Dad and my grandmother and all the food that was a necessary part of it all. My grandmother did not cook and when she did, it was just awful. But summers were different. She cooked/grilled the basics: hot dogs, steaks, burgers and all remained edible. She had a pontoon boat in Cherokee Village and many weekends were spent with her on that boat eating grilled food and lots of watermelon. It was the one time that veggies were NOT put down in front of us and told to, “chomp, chomp, chomp or else.” No, hot dogs, chips, potato salad and soda. It was like the pontoon was a magical world of swimming and edible food. (Fourth of July was the best because we usually wore Hawaiian themed costumes).
Now, my Dad and summer cookouts are forever-ever in my memory. He lived a simple life: golf, grilling, fishing and family and friends. Dad had a small apartment later in life and would host amazing cookouts with his small grill going. Now these were not the grill and go home cookouts. NO. You saddled up for the afternoon and into early evening. This was a week of planning and prepping. First, snacking on olives, crackers, cheese, chips and lots of cold drinks. Drinks were also an important part of the summer cookout. Dad would start with beer for early afternoon and vodka tonic as the day wore on and dessert drinks for early evening-more on that later.
The meat course was burgers, sausage, fish, or anything you wanted put on the grill. Dad served grilled corn on the cob, slaw, salad and sometimes a pasta casserole made its way in. After the meal, it was time to sit and visit. –Stories of military school, growing up and catching up on life. Dessert was fruit, usually Watergate Cake, and after dinner liqueurs: Frangelico, Sambuca or Kahlua. No T.V., phones, just music playing and watching the day turn into early evening. The best was when we stayed until fireflies started showing up, and then it was time to help clean up despite Dad saying no but staying seated smoking his cigar with a drink and looking content. I have to brush away memories and bitter-sweet tears. And for your listening pleasure: Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”