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Spend summers like you barbecue ribs: Low, slow and with no shortcuts

This is the premium time of year, and it always goes by so fast. So instead of rushing through it, kick back, relax and enjoy being in the moment.
Illustration of a picnic table top with ribs and other summer foods.
Summer foods lends themselves to company, whether you're having a pool party or just people in the backyard. George Wylesol / for NBC News

Summer, for some reason, seems to be the shortest of seasons. So you should want to savor it, not make it go faster. Just put your phone down and be in the moment. Take your time and kind of let the day happen. Get a pair of shorts and your flip flops, or deck shoes — or whatever it is you wear — and enjoy yourself.

I suppose if you live in Southern California or another warm weather climate, you're a little more used to the ability to live like that. But for those of us in the rest of the country who have to wait for the sunshine and the warmer weather, this is premium time.

I think that making an effort to make summer feel different than the other seasons helps keep things moving slower, stretching out the summer and all that means — which is being off from work and just hanging out. And, you know, hopefully you've got folks coming over later in the afternoon. You're just feeling good.

A big part of summer is that people like to gather together, especially when you're doing food, whether it's a pork shoulder or ribs or something like that. Summer foods lends themselves to company, whether you're having a pool party or just people in the backyard. At its best during this season, people come and go, they linger, there's no set schedule. The wandering it itself evocative of summer. There's a sense that that's the way it is.

Summer should be like making spare ribs: To do ribs correctly, you have to take your time. It's not about rushing, it's not about shortcuts. The mantra is low and slow. So you're cooking your meat at 200, 210, 220 degrees; maybe every half hour, you're checking in, basting it with a vinegar mop and building layers of smoke and flavor. In between that, you sit in a deck chair or a beach chair — whatever you like — you check your fire, you go away, you come back. There's a process but not a schedule; you have to stay in the moment, not hurry to get to the end, even though the end is delicious.

People always say to me about my ribs, "Well, you know, do you boil your ribs first to cut down on time?" That kind of defeats the purpose — besides losing a lot of flavor. Part of the purpose is that it takes time; part of the intent is that you can't rush it.

That kind of slow, backyard barbecue is an American summer tradition. And that tradition is inherently about having people join in that backyard — or maybe having cookouts going on in more than one backyard in a neighborhood and wandering from one to the other. Or getting a bunch of family members together and going to a state park for a cookout or a big picnic — cousins and aunts and uncles, everybody pulling picnic tables together, just being together.

People might say that it's harder to find time for these moments in this day and age, but that really depends on what your priority is. If you want to do it, you'll do it. And it doesn't have to be that "traditional" family; your family is definable. It's up to you what family you want to surround yourself with. You could do it with the family you were raised with, or with a family of like-minded people, even your "work family," or whatever. We're talking about your family, whatever the word "family" means to you.

It's about "more the merrier." We're talking about summer, after all.

As told to THINK editor Megan Carpentier, edited and condensed for clarity.