The All-American Cookout

At four-thirty this morning, Ryan flew out of bed like there was a rattlesnake under the covers. I asked him where he was going, and he said, “To use the bathroom.” Oh. Okay. I rolled over and started to go back to sleep. The next thing I know, he’s flopping down in bed with his MacBook. At four-thirty in the morning? Why are you awake?! I’ve only got one more hour before the sun comes up, and I’m pretty much up when the sunlight fills my bedroom. So, it’s now six a.m., and I’ve now been awake for an hour and a half. Where’s my coffee?

Yesterday morning saw me out of bed at five-thirty getting ready for garage sale 2.0. Ryan had tried hosting it for me while I was away at drill, but he hadn’t had much success. I figured a veteran garage sale hostess could do a better job. So I posted it on the Ft. Campbell Yard Sales website, put up a couple of signs on the highway, and re-organized the mess in the garage. Saturday morning I was up with the sun and ready to go. I had posted that the garage sale would start at six-thirty. I figured people would start arriving around six. Six rolled around, and I was ready to go. I watched the street for cars headed this way. Okay, maybe they’re not like garage salers at home. Maybe they actually respect posted times. At six-thirty, I just knew cars were about to line our street. Six-thirty came and went. And so did seven, seven-thirty, and eight o’clock. Finally I gave up. It was well past time to wake Carson, and I wasn’t going to roast in the heat if no one was going to show up. I had already dressed Carson for the day and was in the process of giving him his morning face time when we heard a knock at the back door. I opened it to find three ladies going over my goods in the garage. Well! I guess garage salers here just get a late start! I made a quick sale of $4.50, and waited for the next buyers to arrive. By ten o’clock, we were headed out the door.

We headed to the flea market in Hopkinsville. I’d been searching for a good farmer’s market, and though I knew there was one in Clarksville, I hadn’t found it yet. There was one man at the flea market with produce. I bought giant blackberries, super sweet peaches, Big Boy tomatoes, white corn, and best of all, huge green tomatoes! We were having our first company over for dinner since we got our dining room table, and I wanted something special to go with the burgers. Fried green tomatoes would be perfect.

Ryan’s a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to inviting his friends over for dinner, so all day I’d been asking him if anyone was coming over and getting, “I don’t know yet.” Finally, at four-thirty, I told him if people were coming over I needed to know now, or we’d be eating delivery pizza. So sometime between four-thirty and five p.m. I found out three adults and a child were coming to dinner at six. Good thing I had pre-made the burgers yesterday. I shucked the corn and rubbed it with a seasoned butter. Then I wrapped them in a foil packet to put in the oven. Next, I sliced the green tomatoes in thick slices and put them in a bowl of salted water to soak. The beans would only have to be warmed and seasoned, so they were a snap. At five-thirty, I sent Ryan outside to get the charcoals going on our miniature grill we’d brought from Fort Benning. While we were living in Ft. Benning, we were gone so much that we didn’t really need one. By the time March rolled around, just before Carson was born, we were dying to grill, but we didn’t have the money to buy a big one, so we compromised and just bought a little Weber kettle grill. It’ll fit about five burgers all crammed together. It doesn’t hold much charcoal for cooking, either.

Just before six, our guests arrived and I put the burgers on the grill. The corn was in the oven, the beans were on the stove, and I was going to wait to fry the tomatoes when the burgers were nearly ready to come off the grill. On to making more ice cream. I wanted another batch of the vanilla for dessert. We had eaten most of the previous batch. Hey, it was only one quart. I asked Ryan to check on the burgers since I was busy, and he said they’d need to flip in another minute or so. I had him flip them while I worked in the kitchen. I finished the ice cream custard and put it in an ice bath to cool while I got to work on the tomatoes. I had never made a beer batter before, but I had watched Bobby Flay do it on Food Network, so I had the idea. My first attempt had too much beer. The batter slid off the tomato. But then I got it. The oil temperature was perfect, and the batter was thick. The tomatoes fried to a golden brown in no time. I checked the corn: done. So I put the tomatoes on the top rack in the oven with the corn to stay warm while I went to check on the burgers. Much to my embarrassment, the coals had gone out. Luckily the burgers were mostly cooked, but I still needed to melt cheese on them, so I stuck them in a skillet and heated them on the stove. As I was pulling out the condiments and arranging a build a burger line, the cheese began to melt into the skillet and smoke. By the time I pulled the burgers off, the house was filled with a cheddar-y smoke. Nothing had burned, but it sure seemed that way. Luckily it cleared out quickly. By the way, the tomatoes turned out great. I’m ready to try fish and chips next.

After everyone left, I set the alarm and reminded Ryan not to go out any doors. As I headed to the bathroom to get ready for bed, I noticed the baby monitor wasn’t on my bedside table. I remembered I had brought it to the garage to listen for Carson that morning, so I went into the garage to get it. I heard strange beeping as I opened the door, but it didn’t register until I had gotten down the stairs and across the garage. The alarm! I grabbed the monitor, sprinted up the stairs, ran through the house, slapped the disarm button, and punched in the code just before the alarm went off. Good grief. I reset the alarm and went to bed where Ryan was already asleep.

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