There are a few gatherings every year where you don’t have to be creative, original or even politically correct. You don’t need to consult Martha, call your mother or even see what our friends are doing over at Food52. Ritual overcooked turkeys and obviously store-bought cans of cranberry sauce are served unabashedly every Thanksgiving. You can tweak the stuffing, and roast those heirloom Brussels sprouts if you care to – but all people will notice will be the turkey and the potatoes and if you forgot the cranberry sauce. Warm up a pie from the local bakery – people will think that you finally upped your pie crust game. No one cares as much as you do.
The Fourth of July calls for grilled hot dogs and hamburgers. You can try shaking up the neighbors with brats and sausages, or even with veggie burgers. But you can’t stray from that basic American holiday template: grilled food in the back yard. My father grilled ritual hockey pucks every Fourth during my childhood, and they were anticipated with as much excitement as the sparklers and watermelon that followed. Don’t mess with perfection.
Which is why you really don’t need to overthink the snacks you will be serving this Sunday at the annual football extravaganza (which must not be named by small non-profit publications, for fear of big law firms with their eyes on copyrights and trademarks and small fish). Do you really want to make vats of chili, to serve in bowls, to be eaten with spoons, while your guests sit on the white cotton duck slip-covered sofa? Do you want to deal with the inevitable fabric stains, greasy dishes, slurpy spoons, chili-splashed-on-stove and extra napkins? I don’t think so. Do what we are going to do to graciously welcome our friends to our tidy little house. Haul out the bowls of Utz chips (sour cream and onion is my favorite, but you might prefer the crab chips) and Doritos. Scatter some bowls of pretzels and peanuts with abandon around your television. Watch out for Luke the wonder dog. He is very fond of schnacks.
If you want to stay out of the living room and away from the TV, then by all means, cook up some finger food. I have never understood the appeal of wings – so much work for such tiny rewards, and they take so long to scarf down. You probably get hungrier and burn calories as you chomp away. The perfect cycle. I suppose they are more fun if you add beer. Silly me!
Our Tall One was always very fond of pigs in a blanket, and I sometimes like to make them and think fondly of those days. But those are fleeting moments, because those pigs get snatched up fast, that sometimes I don’t even get to taste one. We always serve them with a bowl of spicy brown mustard. You can get as fancy or as organic as you like. (Also, Hebrew National has a nice pre-made variety in the frozen food section at the grocery store.)
I have read the following advice on Thursday, which I must pass along to you, that if you are planning on making guacamole for Sunday, you had better have bought the avocado by Thursday. Get cracking!
Me? I am simplifying. I’m going to sneak off to read in the bedroom. I’ve got a bag of Utz that I hid away earlier and Linda Holmes’ book, Evvie Drake Starts Over. http://www.thisislindaholmes.com
Go, team! I’ll catch up with you at half time.
“The problem with winter sports is that — follow me closely here — they generally take place in winter.”
― Dave Barry