What do you bring to a Memorial Day barbecue besides beer?
On this holiday created to honor fallen veterans, we should pause and thank those who fight for freedom. And then cook some meat outdoors.
But if you’re not throwing the party, you are probably not cooking the meat. (If you ARE throwing the party, don’t forget to include ribs, or you may end up like Sad Grandpa.)
It’s helpful to know if you’re going to a barbecue or a cookout. Michael Harriot offered some NSFW tips on the differences.
In either case, here are a few things to know about Memorial Day etiquette:
Mac and Cheese
It goes without saying that you’re going to bring a side-dish, or you won’t get invited back, so we’re not going to focus on those. But here are a few tips: Try not to bring the same dish everyone else is bringing. Competition will heaviest in the macaroni and cheese field.
There are two ways to make your mac and cheese stand out.
One: Bacon. This recipe from our intrepid food writers suggests bacon or pancetta, plus other gourmet options like mascarpone.
Two: Heat. If your picnic locale has electricity, you can plug in a crock-pot and keep that mac and cheese bubbling. Make sure to use a slow-cooker recipe.
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You can bring beer, but how much more inventive is a pitcher of rum punch? The punch can be made more or less potent, depending on the audience, and this recipe (as suggested by Primer Magazine), hews to the critical elements of a successful tropical drink, “1 part sour, 2 parts sweet; 3 parts strong and 4 parts weak.”
Alternatively, our drinking expert, Bob Townsend suggests a whiskey punch with rum, oleo-saccharum and other exotic ingredients.
Scientific research suggests that a mixtape spiked with Frankie Beverly and Maze will make hamburgers taste better.
Since the concept of “the mixtape” now means streaming tunes on your smartphone, you can volunteer your Spotify subscription, in case the host runs out of ideas. It’s also not a bad idea to keep a battery-powered bluetooth speaker in the trunk, in case the host completely spaces out and forgets the music all together.
At a recent cookout we rocked it old school, using an iPod loaded with 2,000 tunes and a 1/8 inch connector to a Sony jambox. No bluetooth required.
Remember that music can cause conflict, when a connoisseur wants to switch from Frankie Beverly to Frank Sinatra. Self-generated music (i.e. when you bring out your acoustic guitar and start strumming “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore”) can also be welcomed or abhorred.
But if you can play, and you can sing, and you can remember the lyrics to songs by John Prine, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and other proven campfire-friendly artists, then you could contribute something valuable to the event. (Check with your host.)
Your own cooler
With ice in it. So you can keep your punch and other backup items cold. Such as a lemon icebox cake
Or a packet of garden burgers, in case a vegetarian shows up. Or your own beer. Just in case.