Over preparing to over deliver


I’m not a serious man. Mostly about myself, but also about a lot in life. It’s probably partly why I am unemployed since before turning 49 (polite people call it retired). But, there are a few things I do take seriously and when I do, I tend to take it very seriously. That is why I am now over preparing to over deliver.

I know the more familiar phrase is “under promise, over deliver”, but the subject doesn’t fit the saying. In this instance, I’m talking about hosting a BBQ.

Now, again, I’m not serious often, so it’s probably wise I only host two of these a year (Halloween and birthday). But, when I take on such a task, my feelings of obligation rise to unnerving heights.

What’s my obligation? Why, what any host hopes for: that all my guests will enjoy the food and company.

The latter is easy. I have really great friends and family. As long as no one has to actually talk to me, they have a terrific time. I mean, I’m just there for the food service.

And that, my friends, is where all the over preparing kicks in. Let’s review some basics:

The invites

I usually send out two. I used to send out more, but my penchant for being longwinded ended up putting some guests into catatonia.

So, now I send one out about a month before the event and another one week before. Each email has a .jpg map to get to my place. I do this only because some of the guests only visit me once or twice a year (coincidentally, I’m sure, when I offer them free food).

The menu

With only two main events, this is relatively easy. Particularly when you consider the thematic timing.

So, Birthday BBQ is always a “classic” BBQ – ribs, burgers, dogs. I will occasionally add other items, such as sausages or chili, but I keep the main course menu short for this BBQ.

There is a chance my elder nieceling will bring her famous pulled pork to the event. I will be jealous watching others eat it.

The sides are also pretty consistent: mac & cheese, corn on the cob, baked beans, broccoli and some “extra” (this year, a spud recipe).

Plus, pre-meal noshes like veggies and cheeses. And chips. And popcorn. Plus…well, you get the picture.

The setup

This is always a challenge. I live in Florida, the Sunshine State. Ironically, that nickname has long been removed from Florida license plates. Wonder why…

Wait, I don’t need to wonder. It’s because we get rained on all the time here. Well, not as much as we used to (climate change!), but still, it sure seems to home in on my BBQ’s.

In dryer times, I pull the grill out behind the patio into the open field and keep the smoke from any guests. Just last year (after 20 years with a 9-inch drop off), I finally bought a portable ramp to make the grill move easier. Of course, it’s rained each BBQ since, so I have never tested it.

Currently, we are in the midst of a two-week series of toad stranglers. Of course, the prediction for BBQ day is 80% rain.

Last Halloween, I came up with an adaptation that seemed to work well. I brought all the serving pans into the house and laid them out atop folded old towels on my kitchen counter.

People could then walk up, serve themselves like a buffet, and then eat either at the dining room table or on their laps.

Yes, the fact that I have white carpets and some guests bring kids does create potential for disaster. I escaped almost all of it last year except for one late guest (after everyone was gone) not paying quite enough attention to her daughter’s hamburger bun.

Under this setup, though, people can still sit outside. The house side of the patio stays dry enough and the rain makes a cooler and more peaceful backdrop.

The only slight drawback is that I have to cook the burgers inside the patio, so I have to make sure I’m out there all the time to avoid smoke getting “trapped” in the patio.

In case you wanted to know, over preparing to over deliver also means a month of goodies left over in the freezer or fridge.

The lists

So, to accomplish all this, I make lists.

First is a basic lineup of what I’ll be serving and what foods I will need. Then, I layout the “work week”. That’s where I decide logistics of cleaning, setup and cooking.

Next is the actual shopping list. There’s supplies and miscellaneous (Wal-Mart), meats (Penn Dutch) and everything fresh (The Boys).

Finally, there is the “weekend wonderland”. That’s the list for the weekend, broken up by times of what I need to do and when.

I make these lists in Excel and have little boxes next to them so I can black them out (after printing).

Anyone still wondering why I only do this two times a year?

So, this year, it’s actually pretty cool. My birthday is on a Sunday. Normally, I plan these things on Saturday, but I’m shifting this year for the coolness of it being my actual birthday. I let my guests know they can bring gifts if they want (they won’t).

Sure, it’s a ridiculous amount of work for simple get-togethers, but my friends and family always have a good time. And, that, for me, is all the motivation I need to start over preparing to over deliver.


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