"Don't tell me not to live, just sit and putter
Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter
Don't bring around a cloud to rain on my parade." ~Bob Merrill and Jule Styne
Memorial Day commemorates U.S. men and women who have died on distant shores, drowned in far away seas, seared on hot desert sands or have battled in desolate jungles all while performing their military service to our country.
When Memorial Day began, the casualties of the American Civil War were the center of remembrance with its original name being Decoration Day -- a day when many still leave flowers at cemeteries. Today Memorial Day is acknowledged in the United States as a Federal Holiday on the last Monday of May and as a time to remember those who have passed on, whether in war or otherwise.
Many people thoughtfully observe the importance of this day by participating in a national moment of remembrance, by flying the U.S. flag at half-staff from dawn until noon, by visiting burial grounds such as the Arlington National Cemetery where volunteers place an American flag on each gravesite or by visiting monuments of remembrance such as the minimal yet moving Vietnam War Memorial by sculptor and architect Maya Lin in Washington, DC.
Beyond all of the solemnity -- if sunny, warm and lovely -- it's also a day committed to ball games, picnics, side-walk sales, veterans selling poppies, small town parades, barbecues, department store sales, and the formal "kick-off" of summer.
Having grown up in the small town of Lansing on the south side of Chicago, I enjoyed all of the hokey things that life there had to offer. The traditional Memorial Day parade, an extravaganza that involved Girl Scouts, the Little League, the local high school band accompanied by a bevy of buxom ladies from the pep-squad, fezz-ed' shriners in their little cars, the local fire and police departments, the representatives from the Knights of Columbus and of course our local veterans -- almost two thirds of the town watching the other one-third march.
As a kid I marched in every Memorial Day parade with the local high-school band. (Go Rebels!) We skillfully memorized the music to "The Star Spangled Banner," "America the Beautiful," "A Horse With No Name," "God Bless America" and "Bad-Bad Leroy Brown." (It's good to mix it up. The bystanders stay surprised that way.) The parade would end at a local park where refreshments were offered and the barbeques were warming.
You may be wondering why barbecue is sometimes spelled "barbeque" or "BBQ." (C'mon... don't we have bigger fish to fry -- or grill?) Evoking strong primal urges, barbecuing for many is a religious, zen-like experience with the combination of glowing coals and slow roasting; a ritualistic event that occurs in parks, backyards, your own personal "garden of eaten," or anywhere one might fire up cookers. To describe barbequing from an enthusiast's point of view, it's about mindfully and patiently cooking, slathering and preparing food over an open flame to produce bold flavors in every tasty bite. It's also about choosing regional and seasonal food that's slow cooked so that the neighborhood, friends and family may enjoy, eat, nibble and slowly graze over it all.
On this National Holiday, in the event that you're making plans to join the ranks at the outdoor-alter-of-gastronomy, here's my recipe for what I consider the Best BBQ sauce:
Begin by sautéing the onions in olive oil until tender and clear. Then just add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about fifteen minutes on a low heat.
Then, may I suggest that you douse it on everything -- get it everywhere -- chops, ribs, burgers, tofu-pups, steaks, chicken, soy-burgers, mushrooms and even the corn -- ours is an "equal opportunity" grill. And if you're not covered with the stuff too, you're clearly doing something wrong. (No paper-towels or napkins on Memorial Day. That's what sleeves are made for!)
And when the parades and the picnics have ended and the spoils of the day lay before you, remember that all good things come to an end...even the stains.
For the best removal of the Best BBQ Sauce, first eliminate the surface "schmootz" and then rinse the stained areas with cold water from the reverse side of the offender. Follow by creating a mound of baking soda covering each stain, and finish with a drizzle of white vinegar on top. Then simply launder as usual. The bubbling and sizzling reaction will force the sauce out of your fabric, and hopefully -- in perfect Memorial Day style -- you can salute your stains good-bye, too.
Happy Memorial Day!
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