God Bless America. Indeed.
Every summer, around the 4th of July, our dear friends plan a Lobster Boil, which I have christened the "Party of the Summer."
Bill and Elizabeth have hosted our family for this delectable soiree for so many years, we can no longer remember. Nor do we have any reason to count.
We just know that we all look forward to this toothsome tasting of all things delicious and spending an evening with "The People" we love.
Our daughter married their son two years ago. He has been our son's best friend for almost twenty years. I know, it sounds quite complicated but the story had a very happy ending so just shrug your shoulders and keep reading.
We kick off the party with a Bocce Tournament in their lush backyard covered with a carpet of soft, deep green grass that screams for bare feet.
The men play their sons and the moms play their daughters and daughter-in-laws. There are no winners or prizes, this is just for fun and games. And it's tradition. Never break a tradition.
Those wooden balls are a lot heavier than I remember.
Back into the kitchen where we all pitch in to prepare our feast.
Bill was raised in Rhode Island and is the expert on all things "lobster." This is all second nature for him. I consider this a prime personality trait.
He and his son Brian, my favorite son-in-law, (also born in Rhode Island), have graciously taken on the task to shell the crustaceans after too many years of watching us struggle with the tools and hacking the succulent meat into confetti. Thank you, lobster butchers.
I have to leave the kitchen when the lobsters are dropped into boiling water in tall pots on the stove. Silently I thank them for feeding us so very well.
The kitchen smells like the Atlantic Ocean from the brine and the shellfish. Inhale deeply and you will smell it as well. Right here in Illinois. On the prairie.
Elizabeth is in charge of the Frogmore Stew. No frogs, just shrimp, corn on the cob, kielbasa and bratwurst cut into chunks and a variety of small potatoes.
Her timing is perfect to balance the cooking of all of these ingredients in a single pot, into a harmonious symphony of doneness. No easy feat. Especially with a kitchen full of warm bodies, distractions and big appetites looming over your right shoulder.
Frogmore Stew is a low-country staple that originated from the tiny town of Frogmore on St. Helena Island off the coast of South Carolina.
Seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning, it's usually served on newspaper-topped tables in small, southern, coastal restaurants.
Or on a deck in Johnsburg.
Elizabeth also steams clams in garlic, lemon juice and white wine. Pretty damn amazing coming from a girl from Iowa. She knows her seafood.
Bill peruses his well-stocked, carefully collected wine cellar for the perfect pairings while our son, Matt performs as the ever present sommelier.
Can't you see how marvelous this party is and why I love it so much? The merrymaking goes on for hours.
Let us be grateful to people
who make us happy.
They are the charming gardeners
who make our souls bloom.
When we finally get around to thinking about clearing the dishes and disposing the empty shells, the Map of America, in three layers of Jello makes her red carpet entrance. Again, a tradition you simply can't mess with.
It's the only time I eat Jello all year and we ALL look forward to this grand finale. That's a lot of childhood sweetness from sea to shining sea.
I'll make it easy and take North Dakota, please.
Another night of feasting, friendship and family. One for the ages. One to remember fondly. One to always look forward to.
The "Party of the Summer" just keeps getting better and better.
Or maybe I just appreciate it more, because moments like these are so precious, fleeting and there are no guarantees in life.
Bocce, Frogmore Stew and Jello will all be there again to greet us next July, like a comfortable old friend.
I can't wait Bill and Elizabeth.
With deepest thanks and gratitude for the sweetest summer memory.
Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.