Table of Plenty

by Denise
(Auburn, WA)

Summer is about warm days and fresh food. The best days include lavish evening barbecues. I'm not talking crab or lobster, though those certainly have their place. Growing up, a barbecue looks much like the table sitting before me now. It's not a fancy table, but it is groaning with the plethora of summer offerings. The left side of the table includes garden veggies glistening from their introduction to the hose just moments before finding their way. They are complemented by watermelons cut into perfect wedges. They alternate between red and gold interiors, innards glistening with the sweet promise of summer bliss to explode on the tongue and dance along the taste buds. There are bright blue ceramic bowls filled with chips, and golden ones filled with strawberries and grapes fresh from the market.

In the middle, taking place of pride, are the piles of beef ribs. The smell of these have been drifting through the neighborhood for the last hour and no one has been immune. Surrounding them, loyal subjects to this royal offering, are piles of skirt steaks and Polish sausages. The sausages are sweating, plump brown bits begging to be bitten into. The skirt steaks are nothing to be scoffed at, but they are slightly overdone, the visual texture indicating that they are to be avoided.
And following these wonders are the side dishes. The old white bowl with the little blue design that contains the gelatin "fruit salad" that my mother always made. It is pink and fluffy with marshmallow bits that peek out like pale promises in a sea of pastel bits. There are always more cherries in it than come in a can, the red studs tempting the observer to have a bite. Just one. Another bowl holds the just cooked corn on the cob that was pulled from the garden not even ten minutes ago. The chip in the green glaze speaks of years of use and hundreds of meals before.

The side table holds the dutch oven on a trivet. It looks a little bit out of place, but it has the sweet canned "baked beans" that my husband adores. He won't consider it a true barbecue without them. I look at the ghastly glazed bits of bean and shudder. I know they will have that aluminum taste that comes from a can and I know just as well that I won't eat them. The potato salad that came from a store will also be untouched in favor of the one that I worked so hard to make. There is one thing missing, rolls. I retrieve them from the oven and smile as the sound of running feet tell me that the hard work has not gone unnoticed.

This is summer. This is barbecue.

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