But Evan Kleiman's guest on this past week's episode of Good Food reminds us not to overlook the role of the side dish. In Susan Straight's family, side dishes are not only the glue that holds the picnic together, they're also an expression of individuality in a large family.
What's your signature side dish?
Straight married into her large family and creating her own side dish was key to her acceptance.
The other women's side dishes were well-established: corn salad, string beans with potatoes, macaroni and cheese. Straight was able to make her mark with a play on Hoppin' John--saffron rice with black beans and hot sausage.
Kleiman and Straight also speak in depth about tradition and continuity. In Straight's family--and probably many of our families--these barbecues aren't just about eating food and side dishes as status symbols. It's about coming together as a family year after year.
To hear the entire interview and the whole Good Food episode, visit the Good Food website.
Susan Straight's essay "A Family You Can't Divorce" is featured in the anthology, I Married My Mother-in-Law, $11.90 on Amazon.com.
Related: Comfort Food Dinner Party Menu