Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ode to the American Worker - Labor Day Barbecue Guide

Labor Day is almost here and man, this summer really flew by! Of course, everyone's excited about the long weekend. Perhaps, like me, you're gathering some ideas for your holiday barbecue. But all that aside, I'd like to take a minute to remember what Labor Day is really about - the admirable contributions of the American worker.

On holidays like this, I often think about my family, specifically my great grandparents who, like so many, came to New York through Ellis Island just after the turn of the century. 

The Brooklyn Bridge - There's really nothing like it. 
My mother's grandfather, Rosario, was a presser. That is, he came into Manhattan from Brooklyn by subway every day (dressed to the nines in a finely tailored suit, no less), only to strip down into his undershirt and iron clothing in blazingly hot room in a storefront. He took enormous pride in his appearance and his work, and was, by all accounts, the best presser around. His daughters, all of whom worked, held a variety of jobs including working in sewing and textiles - a popular trade for the women of the day. I hope that one day, perhaps years from now, my sewing genes will finally kick in... His three sons also went on to great careers in the both the blue and white collar workforce. 

A few decades later, just across NYC's East river, my paternal grandfather hauled cargo off ships as a longshoreman on the Brooklyn docks. Though I never met him, I've heard him described as an ox of a man, his physical strength improbable in a person of his rather average stature. Though I've seen many pictures of my grandpa Salvatore, I envision him in my mind as Marlon Brando from On The Waterfront  - an excellent movie, by the way. 
You know, -  "I coulda been a contender."

Red Hook, Brooklyn Waterfront Photo:NK 

It's because of the sometimes punishing work of my forbearers that I have the luxury of taking the day off to gather with my family around a great meal. I love my day job, which takes place largely behind a desk, and I sincerely doubt that I'd ever have the spine to do what my grandparents did and what many people still do - work until they sweat to make a better life for those who come after them. 


Today, I am inviting you think about the workers, past and present, that you admire in your family. Feel free to share your thoughts with us! Whatever color their collar, we all know folks that make such contributions to their families and communities. Maybe it's yourself you should pat on the back. No matter what you do, please take a moment to relax this Monday, hopefully with some good food, and of course, a beer. Because nothing's more American. 

Also - come check out Neurotic Kitchen on Pinterest, and specifically, take a look at our Labor Day Barbecue Board for some ideas. 

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