Bring Us With You As You Ease Into Summer

I met my husband because of barbecue, yet barbecue almost kept us apart. I’ll explain. In the earliest years of the early aughts, I was going to school in Austin and working at a local institution called Artz Rib House (yes, with a z). By the end of a six-hour shift delivering heaping plates of ribz and captivating smiles at Artz, I would be infused, body and soul, with the deeply sweet, languidly smokey aroma of slow-cooked Texas-style barbecue. The smell of it sank into my clothes. It wafted up from my pockets. It lingered in my hair and fluttered on my eyelashes. Sometimes, if the light was just so, I even thought I could see it as a mist in the air around me.

And so it was at the end of a long shift, on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, in that early year of the early aughts. As I was getting home, the smell of Artz Rib House preceding me through the door, my best friend gave me a call. “Hey,” she said, a skosh sloshed. “I’m at this barbecue.”

Though I can’t remember exactly how it went, I imagine I kept my response polite but noncommittal: Hmmm, or that’s nice, or oh really?

“You should come,” she added. “To the barbecue.”

“Can’t,” I said. “I smell like barbecue.”

“Yes, the barbecue,” she repeated. I wondered how many cans of Lone Star she had put away. “You should come to the barbecue.”

I said no and hung up. I think about that moment. My husband was there, at the barbecue, and I was not going to meet him. My muscles were glazed in salty sweat. I reeked. I was cooked.

My friend called me back a few minutes later, as I knew she would. “There’s this boy…” she drifted off. My husband, she meant, without knowing it. Looking back on this conversation, I’m sure the sudden clarity I recall in her voice is just a trick of my memory, but let’s go with it. “Listen,” she said. “You should really come to the barbecue.”

So I went to the barbecue. That last Monday in May, in that early year of the early aughts, was the beginning of the best summer ever, a kaleidoscope of golden hours getting to know the boy I met because I said yes to the barbecue, still smelling of barbecue.

All these years later, every time Memorial Day rolls back around, I think about the fact that I married who I married and have the life I have because of a barbecue, of all things. Barbecue. A word that can legitimately be spelled with the letters B-B-Q.

(I feel like I should pause here to acknowledge the “memorial” part of Memorial Day, which I admit I don’t think about, or try not to think about, for complicated reasons involving my dad, a vet. But at some point on Memorial Day, my husband will think about him for me. He will tell me about the day my dad came to visit us in New York, and how the two of them, along with our infant daughter, rode the Staten Island Ferry, because my dad insisted I needed a damn afternoon to myself. Then I will think about my dad and not feel so guilty, per my husband’s plan.)

In any case, Memorial Day has come and gone one more time. It’s summer now. Father’s get their day. Grills get their burgers and buns. Kids get to chase their shadows into the night. And nobody on God’s green earth can keep you away from the barbecue. Keep it light with this Grilled Pizza, one of many manly dishes from Men in Kitchens: A Good Day to Dine Hard. Or whip up some Memphis Style Baby Back Pork Ribs from the late (and much missed) Phyllis Quinn, author of the Ask Chef Phyllis blog, as well as two sweet little cookbooks, Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured. All of this exceptional content is from Selene River Press, of course.

I’ll wrap this up. Enjoy the sunny days and long weekends to come. Sleep in. Watch the sun rise. Get a dog from the shelter and tell him he’s a good boy every day. Fall in love for the first time, or remember why you fell in love the last time. And keep coming back to enjoy the recipes, books, blog posts, and more at SRP.

Images from iStock/millann (main), Smederevac (post). 

Heather Wilkinson

Heather Wilkinson is Senior Editor at Selene River Press.

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