Summer is hot on the heels of Spring in spite of the roller coaster weather pattern some of us seem to be in right now. Trust me, before we know it we’ll be complaining about the scorching heat and oppressive humidity and wishing we could have just a day or two of those milder temperatures once in a while. Anyway, with summertime comes the decidedly American tradition of cooking out. Cooking out is one of my favorite Summer activities. What a great way to kill three birds with one stone.

First and most obvious we all need to eat, even though some of us (myself included) could stand to eat a little less. So why not cook out? I don’t know about you, but for me there’s something almost magical about eating food that’s been cooked on a charcoal grill. It just seems to taste better. Maybe it’s an association thing like turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas, ham at Easter, cake on your birthday, liquor on New Years Eve – OK, maybe we shouldn’t go there. For my wife there’s magic in the idea of her not having to cook. She’s always up for letting me do the cooking! Let’s move on, shall we?

Second, cooking out can help reduce energy consumption. Think about it. If you’re cooking outside you’re not heating up the house with the range and/or oven going while simultaneously running the air conditioner to cool the house down. That should make Al Gore and the “Inconvenient Truth” crowd happy. On the other hand, they probably wouldn’t appreciate the idea of burning charcoal and spewing barbeque smoke into the atmosphere no matter how good it smells. Don’t even get me started on global warming!

Finally, having a cookout is a perfect way to meet new neighbors, or get reacquainted with old neighbors after a long, cold winter when you all stayed indoors and didn’t see much of one another. Inviting neighbors over to your yard for a casual meal is a lot less stressful and costly than inviting them into our home for a more formal dinner. For a dinner, you’d probably feel obligated to breakout some of your best Omaha steaks and serve them with all the trimmings including a bottle of fine wine. For a cookout, all you really need are a package or two of Johnsonville stadium style bratwurst (my personal favorite), some Philly Gourmet hamburger patties (also my favorite), some potato chips and dip, a fruit salad or seedless watermelon, and your favorite Coke or Pepsi products. OK, beer too, if you must! The best part is it’s perfectly acceptable to make it a controlled pot-luck by asking your guests to bring a bag of chips, package of buns, fruit salad, or desert.

Whatever your reason for wanting to cook out, please enjoy it safely. Don’t squirt charcoal starter on a hot grill, and definitely keep the kids and gradkids away from the hot grill.

For those of you who have no clue as to what or how, try Googling “cooking out” or “barbeque”. That’ll get you going in the right direction.

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