the bean bag tradition

6 Jul


In Brette’s family, the 4th of July is all about the bean bags.  His family, along with a related family, have been getting together for a bean bag tournament every 4th of July since the early 1990’s. I was introduced to this tradition early on in our relationship. Albeit stressful (meeting your new boyfriend’s extended family all in one day and them being keenly interested in your bean bag skills is a bit overwhelming), it was the best family tradition I had ever been apart of and 10 years later, I still look forward to it.

The big trophy. All of the year's winners are written on the other side.

The big trophy. All of the year's winners are written on the other side.

Here’s how it works:

1. All participant names go into a hat and pairs are drawn at random.

2. Pairs are announced to a myriad of reactions – hey, not all of us are good at bean bag and it’s all in the partner draw.

3. A bracket is created (think NCAA) for a double elimination tournament.

4. The games begin. Trophies (created by my very talented welding instructor father-in-law) are awarded to the top 3 teams. I could get into the rules of the game here, but that is way to much to write and I’m sure I’d get something wrong that Brette would have to correct me on.  So, if you are in desperate need of the house rules for our version of bean bag, let me know and we can discuss.

5. Grudge matches begin, new rules get made, and trash talking ensues while people are trying their best to finish off the keg and a large bottle of Tanqueray.

The championship game. Notice the awesome drink holders? That would be my father-in-law.

The championship game. Notice the awesome drink holders? That would be my father-in-law.

Did I win?

Nope. Definitely not. I have never placed in the top 3. The closest I’ve come is 5th place in 2008. This year, I went 0-2 BBQ. I think it’s because I married into the family, so there are no bean bag genes in my body. Yep, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Of course at a gathering like this there is lots o food. We kick it off with a big pot luck and to date, no one has ever gone hungry. A sampling of this years offering: pulled BBQ pork, a variety of salsas, homemade Italian sausages, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, gluten free pasta salad, pinwheels, fruit, veggies, and a plethora of bars, brownies and cookies.

pickled asparagus, Ani's famous salsa, drink garnishes

pickled asparagus, Ani's famous salsa, drink garnishes

I made one of my favorite summer salads. It is based on a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Have I mentioned how much I love Ina Garten? She rules. Really. If you still haven’t bought one of her cookbooks, you really need to do so. Of course I don’t have a photo of the salad, but you can probably tell from the ingredients – it’s beautiful.

Guacamole Salad

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

It’s perfect just as a salad or with tortilla chips.


  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained – add another can if you want a heartier salad.
  • 1/2 cup small diced red onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (use 2 if your fam likes a little more heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 3 ripe Hass avocados, seeded, peeled, and  diced
  • a generous handful of cilantro, chopped

Place the tomatoes, peppers, black beans, red onion, jalapeno peppers, and lime zest in a large bowl. Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper and pour over the vegetables. Toss well.

Just before you’re ready to serve the salad, fold the avocados and cilantro  into the salad. Check the seasoning and serve at room temperature.


One Response to “the bean bag tradition”

  1. Melissa July 23, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    For a picky eater who has been exlporing the world of eccentric recipes whenever Jen comes to visit… this salad is wonderful! I prefer on a chip rather than alone… I LOVE when Jen comes to visit :)

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