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Backyard BBQ on the Farm as featured on MSN

By: Martie Duncan

Nothing says summer like grilling out—once you’ve had that first burger off the grill, you know summer has officially arrived. After grilling the same old burgers the same old way, perhaps you’d like to try something a little different? In the South, we ta

ke our grilling seriously. Everyone has a special recipe, their own barbeque sauce, or a technique that is top secret. Mine is grilled corn and since the first sweet corn of the season was ready to be grilled, I packed up the car and headed to the farm for this party. But you don’t have to have a farm to enjoy all that summer has to offer---get your grill on and invite your gang over for a backyard barbeque—farm style!

Party Basics: Decorations Food, and Beverages

Decorations
The beauty of a casual barbeque in the backyard is the word casual. No stress allowed! Since we went to the farmer’s market and got everything we were going to grill fresh from the grower, I decided on a farm stand theme for the party. I didn’t need much more than baskets of fruit and flowers from the yard for decorations. Instead of a table, we used the back of an old farm truck for our buffet. A picnic blanket, quilt, or burlap can be used for a tablecloth---design your color palette around that. I’m all about trying to use what you have in a new and different way. Drape some holiday lights in the trees or bring your candles outdoors and display them on a wooden or metal tray to add some style to your party decorations. Bales of hay are available at a nursery or from your local landscape company. Throw them around the yard—they add atmosphere and can be used as extra seating, too. Galvanized tin tubs are inexpensive and can be used for other household chores (like washing the dog) after the party is over!

Food and Beverages
Almost every community has a farmer’s market. I love the one in Lincoln Park, right in the heart of Chicago. You can find everything from fresh fruit and veggies to flowers, artisan cheeses, and organic beef. Design your menu around what is fresh and available. For our party, traditional southern favorites like barbequed ribs, beer can chicken and my world famous grilled corn were served with a few unusual items. Grilled pineapple, peaches, and bruschetta skewers were easy to make and a nice change of pace. The key to great grilling is to use fresh ingredients, the right tools, and to have some patience. Don’t turn items too early or too often; allow enough time for those highly prized grill marks--- the symbol of a grillmaster’s expertise!  

Party drinks? I am a big fan of the signature cocktail. You can mix them in advance and guests can serve themselves with ease. It is also easier to estimate quantities so you control costs better than you can with an open bar. For this party, I served lemonade: regular for the kids and a ‘loaded’ version spiked with bourbon and a dash of amaretto for the adults. Since it was a hot day, I also iced down lots of beer, fruity Jones sodas, and bottled water in a galvanized tin tub. If you need to get drinks cold in a hurry, layer rock salt with ice to speed up the chilling process.    

Entertainment
The kids fished, rode the tractor and played until they were exhausted. We did get up a quickie game of whiffle ball—that plastic baseball game we used to play as kids. I could almost hear my mom calling me in for dinner as it began to get dark--- it really took me back. Some other ideas are badminton, croquet, and horseshoes. Make sure to have plenty of insect repellant on hand—and sunscreen if the party is during the afternoon.

You can host this ‘down on the farm’ backyard barbeque anywhere. You don’t even have to have a backyard or an outdoor space to create a casual mood. How rustic you want to go is up to you. You may not want to drag bales of hay into your high rise apartment, but by using some of the ideas I’ve shared and adding some country music to your party playlist, you’ll create a laid-back atmosphere--- even if you have to grill it up inside!

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Martie Duncan offers ideas for affordable parties, weddings and entertaining and her tips for fabulous but frugal parties can be found on MSN.
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