by AINSLEY LAWRENCE
Let’s face it: 2020 was pretty much a lost year. The coronavirus didn’t just change the way so many of us work, learn, and live, but it’s also impacted the way we socialize. And for a Southerner, socializing — especially in the form of the legendary backyard barbecue — is a way of life.
We’ve all missed the good eats, good people, and good times that COVID-19 has deprived us of for far too long. But life, at least, seems finally to be returning to something resembling normal. And that means it’s time to fire up the old smoker, dust off the old sauce brush, and pick out a slab of meat nearly half your body weight.
Yes, indeed, the backyard barbecue is poised to make a comeback in 2021. This article provides the tips and tricks you need to know to throw the perfect barbecue — safely!
Put Your Guests at Ease
There’s no question that after all we’ve been through in the last year, a lot of anxiety remains. After so many months of isolation, it’s going to take some time to feel completely comfortable in a social setting. And, of course, getting back to life and getting back to fun isn’t going to mean the same thing as it did before. The virus may be on the ropes in many southern states, but it’s not down for the count — yet.
So, there are some things you’ll want to do not only to protect your guests from the virus but also to make them feel more secure about gathering in general.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), your risk of contracting the virus is significantly lower outdoors, which is why eating outdoors is now almost always far preferable to indoor dining. You can help encourage social distancing even in outdoor spaces by separating chairs and tables by six feet.
You should also make sure that there is plenty of hand sanitizer and an abundance of face masks on hand. Additionally, ensuring that you’re using single-use (and biodegradable!) plates, cups, and utensils will help mitigate the threat of infection of any kind, not just coronavirus.
Finally, keeping surfaces clean and sanitized and taking particular care to protect those who may be vulnerable — the elderly and the immunocompromised who may not be fully vaccinated — will not only help ensure your guests’ safety but also help them feel more at ease. And if there is anything we southerners know how to do, it’s put our guests at ease! They don’t call it “southern hospitality” for nothing, after all!
The Main Attraction
Of course, your backyard barbecue isn’t about the virus. Your barbecue is about the food, the music, stories, good times, and the company. So once you’ve got your safety plan in place, now it’s time to get to the fun stuff.
And that, sure enough, starts with the food. When you’re planning the perfect barbecue. You need to focus on the highest quality and best cuts of meat. You’ll also want to decide on the kind of barbecue you want to feature at your shindig. If you know barbecue, you know that ain’t always easy. From East Texas to Louisiana style, the possibilities are practically endless!
Though the meat may be the star attraction, it’s not the only show in town. You’ll want to plan your menu to satisfy the most varied appetites, so don’t forget the appetizers and sides, the dessert, and the drinks. If your guests have to undo a button or loosen their belts before they leave, then you know you’ve done your job as the perfect Southern host!
Sweat the Small Stuff
When you’re planning a backyard barbecue, it’s not all fun and games. There are details you need to attend to to keep from blowing your budget or having your party ruined by some unplanned accident or annoyance.
Creating a detailed budget that includes plans for unexpected expenses will ensure you, too, can enjoy the festivities without wondering how you’re going to cover your nut afterward. For example, you might make your own invitations or recruit your guests to bring their own specialty dishes. Every small step you take to cut costs will increase the amount you have to spend on the things that really matter — the food, the drinks, and other such fun stuff!
Anyone who’s spent any time at all in the south, for example, knows how irritating our notorious universe of insects can be. Mosquitoes can quickly put an end to the best backyard party — not to mention the fact that they can be quite dangerous, from causing allergic reactions to carrying diseases such as the Zika virus.
So take care to plan ahead to keep your guests comfortable and sting-free. Be sure to regularly weed your yard and keep your property free of standing water where mosquitoes love to lay their eggs. Above all, if an infestation looms, don’t hesitate to call in the services of a professional so that you and your loved ones can enjoy your outdoor spaces year-round.
No doubt about it: It’s been a long, hard year. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel — and that light is the flame of a hot grill overflowing with deliciousness. And with a bit of planning and care, you can turn the 2021 backyard barbecue season into the best yet.