The Lingering Smell Of Basil

A cooked hot dog garnished with mustard.

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As soon as I feel the first warm hint of spring on my shoulders and see the first crocus I immediately rejoice! It’s Spring, not officially, but in my snow-sickened world it is the start. As soon as Spring is even in the air I start thinking of having barbeques, especially the one BIG BBQ we try to have every few years.  I’m imagining all our friends and family out in the back yard eating cheeseburgers from the Weber grill, dripping with either cheddar or American cheese. I think about   grilled chicken with barbecue sauce and juicy hot dogs, and bright yellow mustard. I also think of potato chips, the real kind, the ones we had as kids and not the baked, healthy, kind either. There would be Heinz ketchup, (of course I’m brand loyal) potato salad made with a touch of mayonnaise, coleslaw and perhaps a large tomato and mozzarella salad with fresh basil and a touch of light green extra virgin olive oil drizzled over the vibrant red tomatoes and the creamy white mozzarella cheese. I love how the earthy smell of basil lingers between your fingertips all afternoon.

In addition, we may have small roasted potatoes on the grill along side smokey-sweet yellow and white kernels of corn on the cob.  Red and white plastic table cloths, bright red or blue plastic plates (preferably the ones that have three sections, love those!) and disposable cups. Napkins would be stacked high in your hands as if they were towels. Messy and barbeques to me are happy synonyms.

Once we went to a barbecue at Charlotte’s house, (“Charlotte of the charmed life” as I call her) the table was like a set directly from a page right out of Martha Stewart Living. Everything matched, the beige, ironed linen table-cloth ( l-i-n-e-n),  the highest quality count, and the china decorated with large blue and yellow flowers bursting on the plates.  Of course, all the bowls, the silver utensils, they all matched perfectly as I watched in unmitigated horror and delight. This is not what I thought I was coming to, I felt under-dressed and ill at ease. It was absolute perfection just not MY type of perfection. It was for high-class people with lots of money and so very different from our dinners and us.

We dined on steak and salmon, ( I hid my salmon) a glossy arrangement of bright green, yellow and red fresh vegetables and imported cheeses. There were no sticky fingers and plastic glasses of lemonade, just a beautiful crystal pitcher filled with ice water, ice cubes that were in the shape of tropical fruit. I was afraid to eat, afraid to get the napkins dirty so I ate slowly and carefully and with my luck, ended up leaving a stain on the tablecloth which I fervently tried to hide underneath the matching napkin. There were no s’mores at this dinner, it was too elegant. We had assorted cookies from the expensive bakery in town shaped and iced beautifully like flowers and cars and ice cream cones but utterly tasteless.

At our barbeques we have cherry, blueberry and apple crumb pies glistening on the table inside with vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream readily waiting in our freezer. I make my home-baked banana raisin-chocolate chip loaf and there would always, I mean always, be a chocolate cake and brownies.

I put my nephew, Jon, in charge of music so the sounds of Neil Young,  Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and various other oldies will be playing out the window like the days when music screamed from dorm rooms. It isn’t fancy or elegant and it may just be ordinary but I guarantee you, there will be, a lot of food, including s’mores and an equal amount of laughter. Hope you can come.

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