Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Grueling Grilling

Every season has its tortured pleasures: Freezing the tomatoes in the fall, putting the lights on the maple tree for winter, the tax ordeal to usher in spring. For me, summer's annual Dreaded Good Time occurred yesterday, when the Brooklin Youth Corps (the summer work/self-esteem program of which I'm president) barbecued chicken for at least 350 of its neighbors and friends. This was our fifteenth attempt.

The Fourth of July barbecue has been a tradition for decades. When we moved here 27 years ago, the event was handled by the Grand Masters of public cooking: Louise and Rocky Rockwell, George and Georgene Allen, and a host of others. Not sure if there was an organization involved--they were an organization unto themselves. Many of them have moved on to the Bigger Supper now, or anyway have passed their aprons and charcoal briquettes to another generation.

When the BYC started up in 1997, the elementary school's PTF had been doing the honors but had requested relief for some reason. So we took the barbecue on--gulping, because it's such a tradition--and survived to grill another day. It's particularly harrowing in that the BYC season is but a week or two old at this point, so we're not quite the well-oiled machine we'll be in a couple more weeks.

Every year has its little jaw-clencher, usually related to the supplies order. Last year, the order came in with skinless, boneless chicken--it turned out scrumptious anyway because we have Paul Brayton the Master Griller on our team, but he almost had apoplexy worrying about it. This year, the order came in without plastic forks, and we didn't notice until a half-hour before the hoards arrived. This necessitated a frantic run down the street to the Brooklin General Store, which donated every plastic fork on the premises, including the ones they had in a drawer for their own customers.

The chief peculiarity of the event is its timing. The parade starts on the other end of town at 10 a.m., and the color guard makes it to the town green at 10:30, followed for the next half-hour by a succession of floats and antique cars and horses and bicycles and whatnot. The first year we did the barbecue, we figured nobody in their right minds would want barbecued chicken, corn, potato salad, cole slaw and watermelon before 11 a.m. Wrong. The minute people's feet hit the grass of the town green, their noses get a whiff and their mouths start watering. They walk right past the sponge toss and other kiddie games to get in line. Go figure.

We start selling at 10:30. We're sold out at noon.

Herewith, a few snapshots. Sorry I didn't get any of the parade or the other festivities. I was up to my elbows in cole slaw at the time.

The rush begins, and the brave BYCers begin an intense hour of slinging cole slaw. (The red t-shirts have "BYC--Brooklin Youth Corps" on the back, so they're advertising their services even when hunched over and weeding.)

BYC Steering Committee members Judith Fuller (foreground) and Sherry Streeter sell tickets to...

... This crowd. This is probably 10:45.  Note that some people are already eating.

Steering Committee member Ann Brayton, whose husband, Paul, is our grilling genius, cuts up watermelon. Ann's kids were in the BYC years ago, and now she's serving a life sentence on the steering committee.

Our coordinator, Doug Mangels (in red, naturally) gives Paul a break at the grill. This was fairly late in the game--at the start, the entire grill is covered with chicken. I actually don't know the guy in blue who's helping Doug, but I think he was the Braytons' house-guest. That's what happens to the unwary visitor so come here at your peril. (This message brought to you by the Greater Blue Hill Chamber of Commerce.)
My one non-chicken-related photo. It's the sponge-throwing booth run by the school. I love the reaction of the girl in the left background.

After the clean-up, we went to our own neighborhood barbecue. I drank three (light) beers and ate, I think, four desserts. Fueling up for next year.


Anonymous said...

So I should be wary if I`m ever invited to your house saaaaay, end of June, First of July? :P


Ellen Booraem said...