Summer is fast approaching and the weather is ripe for some outdoor cooking, and I’m sure before the Fall, you would have hosted or went to about a half dozen cookouts (barbecues). I’m also sure you will have plenty of stories to share from which drunk uncle acted up, who flipped the table over in spades, who ‘put their foot’ in the BBQ chicken, down to who dressed scantily clad. However there’s rules and levels to attending BBQ’s. So allow me to share some tips if you please to help you avoid being a bigger jerk than the chicken.
Proper Cookout Etiquette (The Do’s)
BRING SOMETHING OR ASK THE HOST IF YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE
As a courtesy, ask the host(ess) if you can bring something. Now I will say I don’t want any of you to feel obligated to bring anything, but it does help out. Granted, although some hosts are able to pull it off, it’s a little hard funding an entire barbecue on your own. So if said host(ess) made or bought something you don’t really eat or drink, perhaps he/she could cook what you brought (within reason).
In short, I understand money can be tight, but I don’t care if you only bring a bag of ice. Walking in empty belly and open handed, and walking out full belly and hands filled is not cool.
HANG OUT FOR A WHILE BEFORE EATING
Going to a barbecue should be a fun, sociable, event. It’s not strictly for you to indulge in a free meal. Personally, I have a 30-40 minute rule. If the food is already ready for consumption, I typically wait 30-40 minutes before making myself a plate. It’s perfectly normal to socialize, have a drink, chill, and listen to music for a while.
Mom always told us to (and she would always make sure we did this) eat before we went to any party or cookout. Why? It’s just simple etiquette. It’s not a good look going to a BBQ and immediately making a b-line towards the grub because you haven’t eaten all day.
ASK IN ADVANCE IF KIDS WILL BE THERE
It’s happened to me on a few occasions, so I can definitely attest to it. Imagine bringing your child to a BBQ and it’s (as the young folk say) poppin’. Problem is, there are no other kids for your little one to play with so they become real bored real fast, and soon you hear these familiar phrases: “Are you ready yet”? “I’m ready to go”. “When are we leaving”? It’s always a conundrum to be faced with. So unless you already know the host has children, or you know other invited guests who will have a child(ren) in attendance, always ask first. At that point, you will know whether it makes sense to attend or not.
Improper BBQ Etiquette (The Don’ts)
TAKE FOOD HOME UNLESS YOU’RE OFFERED
Definitely a no bueno. If the host offers, and in some cases, damn near pleads with you to take food home in order to save him/her of the wasted food and extra cleaning, by all means go ahead. This obviously saves you on cooking the next day, and you do them a favor by taking the extra food off their hands. Win-Win right?
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you not to be that person to go into the kitchen (or where ever the food is) and start making plates with reckless abandon. This goes especially if you’re the first or the only mo-fo doing it. If you’re making plates keep it at a minimum of two. I’m sure brothers don’t want to hear, “Yeah ..uh Uncle Jesse said to bring him a plate, and one for Momma Dee, Aunty Shirley, and I’ma grab one for my two boys as well”. Naw bruh! And if yo’ a$$ didn’t bring shyt either…Negro Pah-lease!
DRINK WHAT YOU BRING
If and when I’m invited to a cookout and I bring a bottle, I don’t drink it. It’s for the other guests and host to indulge in. Lost? Say for instance you bring a 12-pack of beer but you went and drank five of them, what was the point in bringing it? Or maybe you brought a bottle of Remy but you drank 1/3 of it on your own. The point is, what you bring should be for the barbecue, not necessarily for you. There are two ways to get around this however if you care to know:
1) If you bring an additional bottle just for yourself (preferably a smaller personal size)
2) If you don’t drink, and you brought a bottle for the festivities.
DANCE UNLESS YOU CAN ACTUALLY DANCE
Plain and simple, if the DJ (should one be there) decides to play music and you can get by on an simple 2-step, okay, no problem. In the event he busts out the Wobble, Cupid Shuffle, or any dance that requires attention and detail, avoid all of the above, unless you feel like embarrassing yourself.
ENGAGE IN SPADES UNLESS YOU KNOW HOW TO PLAY
I wrote an article on the in’s and outs of spades called 7 Spades Tips to Help You win More Games so it’s covered there. All in all, if you can’t play…don’t.
TALK SH*T ABOUT THE FOOD (AT LEAST NOT IN FRONT OF PEOPLE)
“Yo this ni**a really burned the chicken?”
“What is up with this potato salad”?
“I usually put neck bones in my collards”
“This heffer can’t cook!”
If the food isn’t tantalizing to your taste buds, it’s fine. Not everyone was born to cook or is a Julia Child (showing my age here) clone. Making disparaging comments about the food around people is a no-no. You’re not paying for it, no one forced you to eat it, and bottom line the host and whoever chef’d it up took the time out to make food for the cookout AND invited you.
So in a nutshell, those are just some simple BBQ etiquette tips to follow that should help you avoid competing with the chicken for the title of best jerk at the next cookout. What say you?
Peace as always
[Post Title updated on 01/15/19. Originally entitled, “The Black Folks Guide to Summertime Cookouts: How to Avoid Being a Bigger Jerk Than the Chicken”]