We decided to have an informal get-together on Memorial Day, centered loosely around my showing off our new grill. So we told our neighbors that if they wanted to join us, to come over around 4:00 pm, and to bring something to throw on the grill, and a side-dish to share.

We put out a couple of banquet tables, lawn chairs and folding chairs, and I fired up the Traeger. Although our expectations were low, it turned out to be a great neighborhood gathering. We are lucky to live in a cozy area where we actually know the people who live near us. Mostly that is due to my wife, the social one, but I get to reap the benefits.

One of the nice aspects of the gathering was the number of kids running around playing. From toddler to fifth-grade, we had a good spread of ages, and there were yard-apes zooming by on scooters, bikes, and wagons all evening.

By the end of the evening I had grilled two packages of hot dogs, one package of brats, two chicken breasts, two ribeye steaks, and eight hamburgers. I was using a mix of mesquite and oak pellets, and they all turned out tasty. (Did I mention how much I’m enjoying my grill? I thought so.) Earlier in the weekend I had marinated some almonds and pecans in a worcestershire/curry/garlic mixture, then smoked them for a couple of hours. They were pretty tasty, but I can think of some seasonings that I would like better. But this led to my wife spending the evening telling our neighbors that her husband had “smoked his nuts” and cackling delightedly. Whatever makes her happy.

If Memorial Day is the official start of summer, then I can’t think of a better way to kick off the season.