East Meets South: Backyard BBQ with a Texas Twang

Being from Texas, I'm no stranger to the summer barbeque. I grew up on coleslaw and sweet tea, and when our family gathered in the summertime, we did it around a grill. Our seasonal celebrations even led my dad to write a song called "Backyard Barbeque," which is still a family classic.

We didn't always stay in the backyard, though. A perfect summer afternoon could be made at a neighborhood park, a local swimming hole, or any place with an outdoor grill and some water to splash around in. We'd swing a hammock around a couple of trees and find a shady place to play cards or read a book while my dad dutifully stood over the grill, spatula in hand.

Needless to say, I was feeling a little deprived when summer rolled around this year and I was thousands of miles from my Texas home. But all that changed a few weeks ago, when I took a stroll in Rock Creek Park and stumbled upon dozens of families and friends chatting over a picnic tables and chowing down on burgers, potato chips and other barbeque grub. The smell from the grills was intoxicating, and it reminded me of a time when I could dig into a rack of ribs without worrying about my carbon footprint. Nowadays, I'm less likely to sink my teeth into meat, but that doesn't limit me to veggie burgers and smart dogs. I've found that onions, peppers and summer squash are a heavenly alternative to the standard barbeque fare, and feta cheese isn't bad either (just marinate large chunks in olive oil and spices, wrap in aluminum foil and throw on the grill).

After that day in the park I set a goal to seek out all of the outdoor treasures in my city this summer. Maybe these east-coasters aren't all hiding out in their air conditioned homes like I'd assumed; maybe I just haven't discovered their well-hidden spots for that perfect summer afternoon. So now I'm off--biking trails, swimming pools, picnic tables--I'm determined to discover them all. And, if there's a grill around, you can be sure I'll be there with my squash and feta, and maybe a couple of beers.

Tags: Green bbq, Reducing meat consumption, Vegetarian barbeque

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