Janine Davis

It is that time of the year again! Time for cooking on the grill and having good fellowship with those people we call family. Time for one of the most celebrated holidays in the U.S. – July 4th Independence Day!

The July 4th cookouts are particularly special and especially epic because of the fireworks. In case you’re curious, the first 4th of July fireworks show took place in Philadelphia in 1777. There were fireworks, canons, and even bells that went off to honor the 13 original states. And believe it or not, there was even a dinner and parade for the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Another fun fact – there were only two men who actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. They were Charles Thompson and the infamous John Hancock.  And as history tells it, the other 54 delegates signed over the course of the next month.

Enough of the history lesson and now back to the more important topic – the food to celebrate our Independence! Between the spades, the Tamia line dance, and the Aunties who take to-go plates before the cookout even starts, the cookouts are my favorite part of the summer.

My family is big on gatherings. And everybody has their role. The men grill, the women make the sides, and everyone else fills in as needed. Of the cookout items, there is no argument about what’s to be prepared. The list below is a small sample of my family’s staples at the cookout. This is NOT an iron-clad list. It’s my family’s personal cookout must-haves.

Check it out and see if you agree.

  • Watermelon

    Yes, you guessed it right! At number one we have the fruit of the summer. Sweet juicy watermelon that gets on the side of your cheeks on a scorching summer day holds the number one spot on this must have cookout list.

  • Hamburgers & Hot dogs

    It is only right that we have these next items in second place. What is a cookout without hamburgers and hotdogs? Give them to the kids; a quick fix. Plus, generally they are cheap and easy to cook for big numbers.

  • Pasta Salad

    Not to be confused with potato salad, pasta salad adds a little sophistication to our cookout menu. It can be easy to make, light and combines carbs with vegetables. This side dish holds third place and a special place in my heart.


  • Ribs

    Now this meat is not for everybody at the cookout… Just the adults. But depending on the family there is always that uncle who THREW DOWN on the ribs. The sauce depends on where the family is located. But, my brother makes is own sauce. I’m not sure of all the ingredients, but I did taste some honey mustard and A1 steak sauce.

  • Baked Beans

    A Classic, sweet, or savory warm dish to balance out the plate. You cannot go wrong unless you don’t add brown sugar – then you all the wrong. I like that my aunt sprinkles in a little ground beef.

  • Potato Salad

    In sixth place is something that I was not always a fan of. Now I cannot imagine a cookout without a little potato salad in the corner. I’ve learn to like it better when my cousin uses fresh red potatoes!

  • Mac & Cheese


    I know coming in at #7 is a little low for this iconic side dish, but we are talking about cookouts here. Ninety degrees outside and mac and cheese are not the first things on my plate. It is more of a fall/winter month dish for me. That said, it is a fan favorite, so it deserves to be on the list.

  • Kabobs

    These belong to the mature cookout. Only because it can sometimes be a little challenging to eat — being on a stick and all. What is your favorite combination for kabobs? My brother makes the classic chicken, onion, peppers, pineapples, and shrimp combo.

  • Sweet Tea/Lemonade

    An absolute classic and any family gathering. Whether it is homemade or bought from the store this is something that HAS to be at the cookout. Sweet Tea, Lemonade, or both! Just refreshing and a great way to pay homage to our southern ancestors.

  • Corn-On-The-Cob

    And last but not least, there’s the good and wholesome corn-on-the-cob. Nice buttery seasoned and juicy corn and if it has the grill marks on them, that makes it even better. If you are serving corn from a can, then I’ll likely pass.

Sign me up for the V101.9 email newsletter!

Get the latest updates with music news, contests, events, and more when you become a V 101.9 VIP Member. Exclusive access to all things music and soul with your favorite throwback station.

By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.