Memorial Day cookouts combine food, family and fun

May 20, 2022

Next weekend marks the unofficial start of summer with the celebration of Memorial Day. Although the month of May was quite damp and chilly at the start, many families are planning to come to the beach for the three-day weekend. Community pools are slated to open, Ace Hardware has charcoal briquets and barbecue grills on offer, while patriotic groups are planning wreath-laying ceremonies.

In Lewes, the local Daughters of the American Revolution Chapter will host an annual event at the Lewes Presbyterian Church near the gravesite of its namesake patriot, Col. David Hall. Members are joined by elected officials, community leaders, other hereditary organizations and veterans groups. Although the service is relatively short, it is a potent reminder of why we celebrate Memorial Day.

Originally called Decoration Day for the custom of placing flowers on the graves of soldiers (a practice thousands of years old), Memorial Day in this country began after the Civil War. In 1868, Maj. Gen. John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic (a Union veterans association) declared May 30 as the date to observe Decoration Day. He encouraged people across the country to place flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers who had died during the war.

In 1971, Memorial Day was formalized by an act of Congress as the day to honor everyone who had died while in service to the United States. The exact date varies from year to year, with the last Monday in May scheduled for the official observance. While the president places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, community groups throughout the country will hold parades and services.

Once the formalities are completed, most people will return home for the other important celebration – a barbecue or picnic dinner with family, friends and neighbors. Although I realize many of you never stop firing up the grill, no matter the outside temperature, some of us are exclusively warm-weather grillers and use the holiday as the starting point of the season.

If the group will be braving the cold water in the community swimming pool or out at the beach, whatever meal you make will need to be able to withstand temperature changes, which means nothing with mayonnaise! For the menu in the photo, you can see sliced cucumber and carrot sticks dressed in a splash of seasoned rice wine vinegar for a tart, bright flavor.

Baked beans are another good choice, as they’re just as delicious hot as they are at room temperature. The ones in the photo used navy beans; the recipe for a slow-cooker version combines three different types of beans. The pasta salad is dressed with a spicy vinaigrette and tossed with chopped tomato. For this, you could also use sun-dried tomatoes, making sure to drain the oil if they’re marinated.

Finally, my favorite, grilled chicken. I find the best pieces of chicken for grilling are those with the bones still intact, as the boneless ones dry out too quickly. I also prefer skin on, to keep the meat from drying; these were barely hanging on to their skins, but they were delicious. I’m not a fan of the charcoal taste, so these were cooked on indirect heat, instead of directly over the flames.

Also, you’ll want to dress the chicken pieces with any sauces after they’re cooked; otherwise, the sugar in the sauce will cause flareups on the grill and char on your bird. Happy Memorial Day!


Pasta Salad

12 oz thin spaghetti

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/2 C olive oil

1/4 C red wine vinegar

1 t sugar

1 pressed garlic clove

1/2 t basil

1/2 t oregano

1/2 t parsley

1/4 t red pepper flakes

1/2 t salt (or more, to taste)

1/2 t pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. Halve the tomatoes and place in a serving bowl; set aside. Make the dressing by whisking together the remaining ingredients. Pour into the bowl over the tomatoes and stir to combine; set aside. Drain the pasta, retaining 1/2 C pasta water. Add the pasta to the bowl and toss to coat with the dressing. If the mixture is too dry, add some of the pasta water. Adjust seasonings to taste with salt and pepper.

Baked Beans

8 oz bacon

1 diced onion

3 diced garlic cloves

15-oz can pinto beans, drained

15-oz can white beans, drained

15-oz kidney beans, drained

1/2 C ketchup

1/2 T Dijon mustard

1/4 C molasses

1/4 C barbecue sauce

1/2 C packed brown sugar

1 T Worcestershire sauce

Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces and cook until crispy in a skillet over medium. Remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain. Discard all but 1 T fat from the skillet. Add onion to the skillet and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add drained beans to a slow cooker along with the bacon and onion mixture. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine thoroughly. Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours.


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