On Saturday we celebrated America's Independence Day as best we could, despite the handicap of being residents in Ecuador. We'd tried to round up a few Americans for a barbecue, and our original plan was to have a cookout in the park. But then we'd heard that you're not even allowed to grill in the parks, so instead, we moved the party to the art studio of my friend Andres. Andres had grown up in New Jersey and was the one who had the grill, and we were grateful to be able to grill at his studio.
We met up early in the afternoon to go to the supermarket and buy supplies. We got as much as we thought we'd need, which turned out to be way too much. But we were still unsure of how many people were going to come. We all pitched in $5 and got chicken wings, chicken drum sticks, hamburgers, hot dogs, potatoes for homemade fries and mashed potatoes, salad, chips, sauces, and 24 large beers. All told for the food we only spent $43, plus a little extra for the beers, which were about a $1 a piece.
Since there's really no lighter fluid, we had to light the charcoals the old fashioned way. We put a candle at the base of the pyramid of carbon, then burnt paper and waited until they caught. We let the grill sit for about 40 minutes to get hotter because we couldn't put the lid on. There were no handles and we'd burn our hands using it. Andres and a couple other people went to work on the potatoes, the girls made the salad and freshened up the chips, while a few of us sat drinking beer, listening to music, and eventually working on the grill.
I stepped up as the grill master, though it was basic at best. We had no tongs nor spatula, so I had to use two forks for everything. Flipping the burgers wasn't too hard, and the skinny hot dogs cooked almost instantly. But turning the chicken and lathering it up with barbecue sauce was challenging, especially as the wind blew smoke in my face. By the end of the day my hands were well done. We ate in shifts, and after cooking the drum sticks, I took a break to enjoy a little food. The girls took over on the grill for a bit as I coached them, and we shared the few plates that we had.
It was a good mix of Americans and Ecuadorians, but all told we didn't have more than 10 people. But that was fine, because if there were too many it would have been hectic. Periodically Andres would come out with more fries out of the oven, and once all of the hot dogs and hamburgers were done, they were open game for whoever wanted them. We quickly realized that we had too much food, but we had to cook it all and do our best. We were already reaching the limit by the second beer run.
We got to the studio around 1:30, but didn't even start eating until around 4 because it was such a long process. So we were all famished, but by the time the chicken wings went on the grill and another friend took over the cooking responsibilities, we were struggling. By this time it was getting darker, and suddenly Andres came out with a big plate of mashed potatoes for everyone. We had to force ourselves to eat, and I could only eat a small portion of my huge plate. I later found out that when I wasn't looking the girls piled about half of theirs onto mine.
Once the food was all cooked we let the grill burn out and sat down, finishing our beers, listening to music, and talking. I undid my belt for comedic reasons, but it basically said how much we'd eaten. The only thing we'd forgotten were the fireworks. We thought about desserts we should have had, but agreed we ate more than enough. Later on I went to my friend Charlie's apartment for a housewarming party, since he'd just moved in recently. We sat around watching Michael Jackson videos on the national channel on a repeat for about 4 hours.
I was pretty tired and just wanted to go home, but one of the guys at the party insisted I go into a club with everyone else. I really didn't want to pay, but he said he'd pay for me. But when we went inside they wanted to search everyone. This man, Sergio, was not happy, and started a scene. So they told him to get out, and me by association. So for the first time I got kicked out of a club and I didn't even do anything. But I was pretty glad about it anyway because I just wanted go home. So though we weren't home for Independence Day, we still had a pretty good time. Expatriates, but still patriotic.