Camp Cousin Concludes (and there was lots of chicken)

The sun set on Camp Cousins – a gathering we try to do every summer in the town where we grew up, Erie, Pennsylvania. My parents still live here, but my brothers and sister left and settled in New York, Virginia and Missouri.

My brothers, sister and I are 4 1/2 years apart, from the eldest to youngest. There are 8 cousins in all, and four of them are rising high school freshman. So we are a close-knit group in age, if not geography.

This year the New York Meads couldn’t make Camp Cousins and we missed them. My daughter and I caught up with the New York branch in Florida in April. And the Virginia Meads visited with them earlier in July. We are fortunate in that we all remain close, which is something we wish to pass on to our children.

In the beginning, it was mayhem. Toddlers. Nursing babies. Cribs. High chairs. Floaties. Schedules. No schedules. Meltdowns. You know, typical kid stuff.

As they have grown up, we have learned to let go. There is still adult supervision on the beach, but now they drive around the neighborhood in the golf cart. There wasn’t much Pokemon Go, which is good. But they were Snapchatting, etc., with one another and friends at home. The rising high school junior had lacrosse training to keep up with, including running, dragging three kayaks down the beach, and a trip to the gym. One cousin came late, after competing in a sailing race for the Junior Olympics on Lake Ontario.

pater and ice cream

Pater, center, with grandsons  William and James Hickey (Missouri) and granddaughters Emily (Virginia) and Nicole (Pennsylvania) Mead.

Some years there is the mandatory Waldameer trip, but this year was just too short (a long weekend) to manage it. There is ALWAYS a trip to Creamland in Fairview, Pennsylvania. The weather cooperated and they were in the lake for many hours at a time.

My daughter arrived during one Camp Cousins 14 years ago. The cousins arrived (there were only four then) and I went into the hospital. By the end of the weekend there were five cousins. Nicole was the first girl.

Camp Cousins has changed months over the years – lately settling in late July/early August – several weeks before Nicole’s birthday. With the departure of the cousins, one significant rite of summer has passed, with another major one (birthday) to go before Labor Day.

We plan to make the most of the remaining summer days. I hope you do, too.

beer can chicken

Beer Can Chicken

This is a favorite of mine. There’s debate as to whether it makes it more juicy or not. Or decreases cooking time. For me, it means an easy roast chicken that doesn’t burn or heat up the kitchen. I often cook 2 at a time so I have plenty of leftovers for summer sandwiches and easy dinners of salad topped with chicken, fresh fruits and veggies and some crunchy nuts.

1 whole roasting chicken, 4 to 5 pounds

Olive oil

4 tablespoons dry spice rub, divided (We like Grill Mates – McCormick – Applewood Rub)

1  can beer, root beer, ginger ale, lemonade
 Remove neck and giblets. Rinse chicken inside and out if desired; pat dry with paper towels. Coat chicken lightly with olive oil; season with 3 tablespoons of dry rub. This can be done the night before for maximum flavor. Refrigerate until about 30 minutes before cooking.

Build a fire or heat a gas grill. Use a can opener to remove the top of the beer can, pour out about 1/2 of the beer. Sprinkle remaining tablespoon of dry rub inside beer can. Sit chicken on top of the beer can, so it appears to be sitting. Transfer whole chicken to the grill, adjusting to make sure it does not tip over. I cook over a low direct heat in the Big Green Egg, maintaining a temperature of around 400 degrees. If you don’t have that kind of control with your charcoal grill, cook over indirect heat (moving the coals to one side and cooking the chicken over the side without the coals).

Cover and cook chicken for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees  in the breast area and 180 in the thigh. Carefully transfer chicken to platter. Allow to rest at least 10 minutes before carving. You can try to carve with the chicken still sitting on the can, but it is easier to transfer the chicken to the sink and remove the can before carving (it will still have liquid in it).


Happy August






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