For Americans, Memorial Day is a time to pause, reflect, and give thanks for all the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the armed forces of this great nation. For many, Memorial Day weekend is also known as the unofficial start to summer, marked by warmer weather, the scent of backyard BBQs, and some quality time spent with family and friends. Celebrating Memorial Day weekend at home may feel a little different this year, but this occasion can still be meaningful and enjoyable for you and your loved ones with just a little planning.
To kick off your summer grilling season, try these ideas to create a great outdoor space:
As with any kind of BBQ party, comfort and ease should be top priorities. Be sure there are some shaded areas nearby, and for an evening party you might want to keep some bug repellent handy. Depending on the weather, umbrellas, handheld fans, or even misters can be helpful on a warm, late-spring day. But once the sun sets and the temperatures drop, some heating stations or an outdoor fireplace can provide needed comfort for you and your guests.
Depending on the size and layout of your outdoor space, an open seating plan is a great option. Be sure to allow space for ample social distancing! If you have a lawn area, you can lay down some blankets and outdoor pillows. If you have a larger space, you might want to bring out some larger folding tables.
Festive Tabletop Ideas
Decorate tabletops by placing miniature American flags on sticks. Red, white, and blue flowers make a nice centerpiece statement. For red flowers, you can use red anemone, chrysanthemum, or poppy. For blue, there are delphiniums, cornflower, or hydrangea. And for white, try one of these lovely blooms: daisy, hibiscus, white anemone, or ranunculus. Cover tables with patriotic tablecloths and/or trim the edges of tables with your own homemade star-spangled garland.
Nighttime garden parties can have an almost magical flair with the right use of lighting. Candles placed in glass jars around seating areas and dotted across your table surfaces create an enchanting ambiance. Globe string lights or lanterns hanging from tree branches also help to enhance the décor and create a light, airy feeling.
Whether your BBQ event involves children or not, outdoor games are a fun way to bring out some joy and laughter. You can set out some bubbles or hula hoops, provide lawn games like cornhole, croquet, or giant Jenga, or even play board games if you have the right surfaces. For concrete areas, leave out some sidewalk chalk for adults and kids alike to be able to express their creativity.
Serve Seasonal and Local
For your menu, think seasonal and local. Late spring and early summer offer an abundance of fresh food and drink ideas. Whether it’s homemade ice tea, strawberry lemonade, local wine, or local craft beers, serve options that showcase the season, occasion, and your own regional community. Check out your local farmer’s market for more tasty ideas and ingredients.
Now let’s talk BBQ, which is really the main event for many a Memorial Day gathering!
Getting Your Grill Ready
- Set aside time to clean and prep your grill so it’s working at its best. If you’re using a propane tank, be sure it’s full. And if you’re using charcoal, you want to check to make sure that you have enough!
- After cleaning your grill, season it by rubbing the grill gates with a towel that’s been dipped in vegetable oil. This will both enhance the taste of your grilled foods and will also help prevent food from sticking to the grill.
- If you’re grilling with charcoal, invest in a charcoal chimney. It makes lighting your charcoal quick and easy, with no lighter fluid needed! A chimney also guarantees your charcoal will get nice and hot before you place it on your grill. If possible, use natural charcoal. Synthetic charcoal can give food an unpleasant, chemical flavor.
- Plan and decide how you will divide your grill to fit your meats and veggies. It helps to split your grill into two zones: a hot section, and a cooler section. This will give you the ability to rotate the food that requires different temperatures at different times during the cooking process.
- Have a good meat thermometer on hand.
- Keep a spray bottle of water nearby to help tame any flare-ups. Pro tip: Also fill another spray bottle with a red wine and herb mixture you can use for basting your meat and/or veggies.
- Be sure you have your grill tools nearby, including metal tongs, basting brush, metal spatula, and some heat-resistant gloves. Disposable aluminum trays are another no-mess way to cook food on the grill, or for placing your freshly-grilled food to rest.
Now, what to grill for Memorial Day? Well, there are all kinds of delicious and simple options: kebabs, hot dogs, hamburgers, steak, and chicken — just to name a few. Veggies like zucchini, corn on the cob, potatoes, and peppers are all amazing when grilled. You can’t go wrong by simply rubbing sliced zucchini and a variety of bell peppers in some olive oil, salt, & black pepper, and then tossing them on the grill!
Along with the savory dishes, fresh fruit and veggie salad are yummy complements. Don’t forget the condiments: pickles, cheese, onions, mustard, ketchup, and so on. And something sweet to end the meal is a must! Fruit pies are always a treat, while homemade popsicles can be a nice option, especially for a warm day.
However you choose to celebrate, please be safe, and have fun celebrating this Memorial Day weekend at home with your loved ones!