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No Occasion parties are a good chance to get together with friends
What is the occasion for serving a beer on the end of a stick?
There is none — unless you and your friends decide you want get together to try brewed shish kabobs.
That beverage evolved from one of the informal get-togethers of a group of Yumans whose party planning is limited only by their culinary creativity and imagination.
These partiers had decided they would all bring foods served on a skewer to their party. So someone came with Hotdogs on a Stick, someone else brought Corn on the Cob on a Stick, while another person had speared leafy greens to make Salad on a Stick.
Among a number of other things to be had on a stick at the party were other assorted vegetables, shrimp and even fried Snickers candy bars.
And in keeping with the theme, someone figured out a way to attach a can of beer to a stick, said John Courtis, who was at the party.
“There were rows and rows and rows of food, all of it on a stick,” Courtis recalled. “It was just unbelievable. The food we had that night was just absolutely amazing.”
A cross between a potluck and a cooking party, these gatherings aren't reserved for holidays, anniversaries or birthdays. A mutual love of food — and a desire to enjoy it in one another's company — bring together the participants, sometimes with as little as a day or two's advance notice.
“You don't need a special occasion; you just get together,” said Courtis
“It's camaraderie,” added Kent Perkins, another regular at these parties.
Perkins points to the tag line of the menu the partiers printed for one another for their Hotdog Night. It read:
“Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow ... we DIET!”
Hotdog Night, incidentally, was not merely about wieners wrapped in buns and slathered with mustard. In nine variations, the dogs served at this party had been grilled, then drizzled, sprinkled, topped or smothered with ingredients ranging from balsamic vinegar to baked beans, from coleslaw to crumpled sausage, pico de gallo to potato chip crumbs.
Courtis said the people who join these affairs not only like food but tend to like to cook. Or they're at least adventurous enough to bring experimental concoctions of their own to share — and not care if the experiment bombs.
For one party, for example, Perkins prepared and served a grilled watermelon that turned out to be a hit.
“There was a wow factor involved in that people had never heard of anything like that,” said Courtis.
He and Perkins both have a knack for cooking, given that both were once professional chefs — Courtis in Long Beach, Calif., and Perkins in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“We will sit down and one of these gathering and start dissecting (the recipes) to see what we could have done differently — while we're eating,” said Perkins.
Today Courtis is the Yuma Sun's retails sales manager, while Perkins is an account executive for the newspaper. Others in the group come from the newspaper or from other fields. Either way, the common bond among everyone is food, not their jobs.
“We don't talk work, we don't talk shop,” said Courtis. “That's the beautiful thing. It's kind of our escape — to eat, drink and be merry.”
The parties can occur any time of the week and can bring together anywhere from a half-dozen to several dozen people, says Perkins.
“It's just a group of us who like food. There's a core (membership) among us, but other people drift in and out,” he said.
“No one gets dressed to the nines,” Courtis added. “We know who we are.”
For readers who like the idea of organizing their own food parties with their friends and family, Courtis and Perkins recommend that they keep planning to a minimum. Get-together that are impromptu, even spontaneous, tend to be more fun.
“If you plan it out too much, you build up expectations too high,” Perkins said.
Everyone in the group should bring a dish to the table, says Courtis, but not everyone has to have a background as a chef or even possess a wide range of culinary skills. All they need is a willingness to offer up food concoctions of their own design, without concern about whether the recipes always leave a good taste in the mouths of the others.
“People have to be adventurous, not afraid to experiment — to think outside the box,” said Courtis.
As they were recounting prior get-togethers in an interview with Southwest Living, Courtis and Perkins hit on an idea for a theme for a future food party.