When you invite someone over for a barbecue, you're inviting them into something special.
Unlike an oven, you'll stand before your pit, open-flame or mound of ashen charcoal, and let your friends gather near to you. It's a vulnerable experience. You'll stand shoulder to shoulder, cold drink in hand. They'll witness your burgers catch fire. They'll make suggestions that you don't want to hear. They'll run inside to grab the clean platter you asked for, and sometimes, never return.
When you invite someone over for a barbecue, they're going to dress for the occasion, and the occasion calls for comfort. There will be no frills, just tank tops and plaid shorts, flip flops and crocs. If someone dare wear a tie (and they wont) you'll simply dip the tip into the fire and pat out the flames before it reaches their neck.
At a barbecue, you'll watch as your offspring forge relationships with others' offspring through the act of accumulating grass stains and ankle scrapes, mosquito bites and sun-burns. Like soldiers in the field of battle, they'll leave your place deeply bonded. Once friends, now brothers and sisters.
At your barbecue, you'll eat really messy food with people you don't mind seeing how messy you really are. There will be shirts stained deep red with tangy barbecue sauce, and you won't try to wipe it off, you'll just smudge it into the shape of your home state. You'll think about how much Europeans hate barbecue sauce, and you'll smile. America.
Am I overselling this? Sure, but only a little. When I look back over the years, many of the people I've had over for a nice dinner have come and gone, but those with whom I have smoked meat and grilled corn are still very much a part of my life.
Maybe these friends stuck around because I invited them over to a barbecue.
Maybe I invited them to a barbecue because I wanted them to stick around.
Either way, have a safe and happy 4th of July.