Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Barbara Klein. Millions of Americans are taking a
long weekend in honor of Labor Day. The holiday is considered the unofficial end
of summer. Many people are traveling. But others are happy to fire up their
barbecue and enjoy a restful weekend at home.
Our subject this week is barbecue and the latest in outdoor living.
"Barbecue" can mean three things. It can mean the grill where meats and other
foods are cooked over hot coals or an open fire. It can mean the act of cooking
the foods. And it can mean the foods themselves. Barbecued meats might be soaked
in a tasty mixture for several hours and cooked much slower than other grilling
Barbecue has long been an American tradition, although favorite preparations
and meats differ by area. For example, Kansas City, Missouri, prefers cooking
pork with a sweet sauce. Texas is known for its beef barbecue with herbs and
spices called rubs.
North Carolina favors pork and thin sauces made with tangy vinegar. South
Carolina likes a thick sauce made from tomatoes. And in California and other
states, many people like to barbecue seafood. Barbecued hamburgers, hot dogs and
chicken are popular all across the country.
The Kansas City Barbecue Society holds the American Royal Barbecue
Championship every year in October. The organization says it is one of the
biggest barbecue competitions in the world. Teams compete for prizes up to ten
Last year five hundred teams entered the contest. There were nine hundred
judges from about thirty states. And, with all that hard work, the American
Royal Barbecue Championship also includes a big concert and fireworks show. Last
year the group Lonestar performed. Here is Lonestar with "What About Now?"
Many women enjoy barbecuing. But some people call backyards with grills "the
man's kitchen." A smoky barbecue is part of a culture shared by many American
These social gatherings are about more than just cooking food. They are often
ways for men to build greater friendships. They have humorous arguments about
how much barbecue sauce to use or the right temperature for grilling. Each
claims to be the best cook or to have the biggest and best grill. Also, each
claims to have a secret for the best tasting barbecue sauce.
Michael Lampkin is a medical researcher who lives in Bowie, Maryland. Often
his work requires him to travel far from home as many as four days a week.
Mister Lampkin says that when he returns home, he is happy to cook on his
barbecue grill at least once a week. He says there a few reasons he likes to
MICHAEL LAMPKIN: "Being outdoors and just the taste in general. It's a taste
that you can't duplicate inside. I think that's one of the nicer things about
grilling. And grilling is something you can do year-round. I've even gone
outside in the snow. That's one of the other nice things about grilling -- you
can do it any time, all the time."
Many people have just a simple, low-cost barbecue. They light charcoal,
either lump coal or hardwood, and wait for it to get hot. But more and more
people are choosing grills that operate with gas. Some of these grills can be
Some people even build a complete outdoor living area around them. These
might include a swimming pool and gardens with trees and flowers.
Some outdoor living areas include kitchens, so people do not have to go
inside the house for water or to keep food cold. There may be a separate outdoor
sitting room with a fireplace and a room for eating.
Complex music and video systems are also a part of some outdoor rooms.
Outdoor living areas can be much less costly yet still be welcoming. In both
cases, backyard fountains, with their calming sounds of water, have become more
Designers say technology has had a great effect on outdoor living spaces.
Furniture made with newer materials can be cleaned easily with water from a
garden hose. In the past, tables and chairs made with wood, cloth or metal often
required special cleaning or were easily damaged by rain and the sun.
Some people decorate their outdoor living areas to look as nice to them as
the inside of their homes. Homeowner Brenda Despanza also lives in Bowie,
Maryland. She recently had a patio built in the backyard of her home. A patio is
built on a flat, open area. Brenda Despanza's patio is made of colorful stone.
There are tables and chairs with umbrellas to block the sun on hot days.
Hanging lights create a pleasant nighttime setting. But Ms. Despanza says she
likes her flowers and plants the most.
BRENDA DESPANZA: "I have a lot of different flowers that I planted. So I have
juniper, roses, petunias and I also have hibiscus. I work so many long hours
that I want a place to come where I can relax. And so my backyard is kind of my
haven from the rest of the world."
There are no rules for creating the right environment for an outdoor area.
Brenda Despanza says all you have to do is choose the things you like -- then
invite friends and family over to talk, eat and have a good time.
BRENDA DESPANZA: "I entertain a lot more since I've gotten it. A lot of
people enjoy the space, and so it's kind of nice because it's so inviting that
people don't mind when I say 'Hey, come on over -- let's have dinner, just sit
outside around the plants.'"
However Americans choose to spend Labor Day and the last days of summer,
music is often part of the activities. We leave you with a song that celebrates
the season. Here is "Summertime" by Will Smith.
Our program was written and produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Barbara Klein.
And I'm Steve Ember. You can download transcripts and archives of our shows
at www.unsv.com. And we hope you can join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA
in VOA Special