It’s a gazillion degrees outside here in New Mexico. We’ve spent weekends in Arizona, Colorado, and Kansas in the past two months, and it’s been H-O-T hot there too. I know it’s not summer for half the world right now, but many of you still know the sticky, sweaty, blazing sun, furnace-blast-to-the-face feeling of a hotter than normal summer.
If you’re from outside the US, I’d love to hear what people in your region do to beat the heat. Across the US, the consensus seems to be a lot of indoor activities, retreats into the mountains, trips to the pool, and cookouts.
Now, if this were any other kind of blog, I could tell you all about the differences between a cookout and a barbecue, but I’ll let you Google that instead so we can chat about what we DO talk about here: romance books.
Food is an integral part of the human experience, so it only makes sense that those common elements of summer would feature heavily in fiction as well. Family cookouts, church picnics, barbecues, and other outdoor dining experiences bring us together and thus make a perfect setting for moving a story’s plot forward. My mind immediately thinks of all the potential for creating a little drama or tension, opportunities for busybody side characters to drop their nuggets of wisdom or insight, or even a great place for our hero and heroine to meet or reunite. Where better to stir up some trouble that forces a couple to face something they’ve been avoiding? So. Much. Potential.
Today, in honor of the outrageous summer heat here in the US, I have compiled a list of must-bring dishes submitted by friends and readers, as well as a list of recommended reads that feature cookouts, picnics, barbecues, or other pivotal summer meal scenes.
Here’s our virtual cookout menu for today before we get to the books:
Meats: smoked brisket, grilled chicken, pulled pork, plus hamburgers and hot dogs
Sides: potato salad, macaroni or pasta salad, corn on the cob (or my preferred variation, elote), baked beans, and deviled eggs (I’m adding a veggie tray with ranch!)
Sweets: ice cream, ice pops, summer fruits, marshmallow fluff salad (AKA ambrosia, the one thing on this list I won’t touch), and glorious fruit pies
Cold Drinks: sweet tea, unsweet iced tea, aguas frescas (lightly sweetened fruit waters)
And now for the books (I haven’t read all of these, but they’ve all come recommended by CF readers):
- Summer to Remember by Tara Grace Ericson
- Never Too Late by Susan L. Tuttle
- Crazy for You by Michelle Sass Aleckson
- The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce
- First Light, a novelette from Erynn Newman
- Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter
- Footprints on Her Heart by Tabitha Bouldin
- my novel, Whatever Happens Next
- At least one of the Freedom Lake books from Toni Shiloh
- Irresistibly Yours by Andrea Boyd
- Several of the tales in Once Upon a Summer have cookout scenes
… so many scenes from other books come to mind, but I’m blanking out on titles. If any come to mind for you, I’d love to see them in your comments! And while you’re in the comments, share what must-have foods you’d bring or want to see on the table if we hosted a virtual summer cookout. I love talking books and food, so I can’t wait to chat with you about both!