We’ve been throwing a summer party since we moved to our current location. Last year was the exception, but the dad was working every other weekend and life was just too hectic, so we gave it a pass for the year. There were comments made. Because we have the space, and a lot of our friends are wide-flung around the province, we had started the weekend party as a way to reconnect. The city friends enjoyed bringing their family out for the weekend, we all got a good visit and the kids ran wild for a couple of days. We always invite the people from out of town to bring a tent or camper and set it up overnight. Most people do.
This year, because we hadn’t made any noise about planning one again, we had friends call to ask if we would consider doing it, and they would like to make it a bit of a pot-luck to make the planning easier on us. Sold. We’re in again, and the plan this year is for the August long weekend. It’s still a lot of work; the food was never the hard part. It’s getting the grounds up to snuff that’s the hard part. So, we’ve started. I did mention to the dad that we really do need to do this every year – it’s the best way to get my garage and basement cleaned out. It also gets the barns tidied, the vehicles parked neatly out of sight (we have a storage business and occasionally people drop stuff off in the back where I have to stare at it for a while). It also ensures that all 6 acres of lawn are neatly mowed, trimmed, weeded, neatly flowered and look in tip-top shape.
This year we are going to have a bit of a smaller party – or at least that’s how we are starting out. Things tend to get away from us. In the past, we’ve had around 60 to 80 people, roughly half of them staying for the weekend. And really, feeding that many is easy.
First, you get the pig. And here is where I have to tell you about the year that the dad and his friend went to pick up the pig to take it to the abattoir and it got away from them. They chased it for several hours over hill and dale (in the rain), considered driving home for shotguns, but finally caught it again, loaded it and took it to meet its end. I honestly can’t remember how tasty that pig was – but he lives on in infamy.
Next, you find a couple of smaller Rubbermaid type tubs, and make up super size pasta and coleslaw salads in each. I use the pre-shredded coleslaw mix and it’s easy as pie.
And then you ask the out-of-town guests that arrived the night before to help with the set up if they would come and help pick up the corn. Once you get to the farm that is providing the corn, you mention (but only then) that first you need to pick all 6 dozen ears. They’ll be delighted.
We have been cooking the corn in borrowed propane deep fryers – the kind that people use to fry whole chickens or turkeys. We have a couple of neighbours that own one and they make boiling corn in large quantities easy. We boil the ears, then quickly put them into an empty insulated cooler to keep them warm. Our best tip for corn roasts or bbq’s – the easiest way to butter corn is to boil a pot of water and drop a pound of butter into it. You just take an ear of corn in some tongs and plunge it into the water – the butter floats on top and the ear gets perfectly coated in butter. We put the pot on the buffet table right beside the cooler and have one of the adults do the plunging. Works every time.
For desserts and rolls, we’ve always suggested one or the other to anyone that asks what they can bring. Aside from something to drink (we provide water, pop and lemonade), I suggest a small dessert or a dozen rolls. We always end up with enough of both and nobody has to transport too much from far away.
And that’s it. We also usually set up a volleyball net, a bocce set, croquet set and pylons for soccer posts – but mostly the kids just run around playing tag and hide and seek. One year we had a 7 foot water rocket that 6 engineers, a bioscientist and the smartest kids in the school were never able to figure out how to get off of the ground. It was later photographed with someone sleeping beside it, one leg thrown over. There is always a bonfire, some years have had a friend with a guitar, some just a radio for music. It helps to invite the local volunteer firefighters so the fire department doesn’t get too antsy. The kids run until they collapse and we try to chase them all into the proper tents or beds. Then in the morning we all slowly gather on the back deck (unless it rains, and most years it does) and wait for the dad to set up his mise en place for the eggs, bacon and toast portion of the weekend. And the coffee.. lots and lots of coffee is usually needed.
It’s been great being the source of a tradition for our friends. We enjoy having everyone arrive, catching up and having fun. There is always just a moment of let down after the last car is packed up and leaves, but then the clean up begins.