The Root's 2018 Cookout Awards

Photo: iStock

Giving honor to the grillmasters, the Kool-Aid stirrers and even the people whose cooking skills are so deficient that they were only asked to bring cups and napkins, I bring you greetings from the Harriot family cookout where Aunt Marvell is our potato salad-maker.

As Labor Day draws near, it also signals the official end of the year for the 2018 cookout season. While I know many of you will throw some meat on the grill well past Thanksgiving, those are not officially sanctioned events of the Black Legislative American Cookout Council (BLACC).


Our official season begins on Memorial Day and ends on the first Monday in September, although we do schedule a few preseason cookouts on Easter weekend and Mother’s Day to prepare for the grueling season. To participate in the postseason, you can attend a black college homecoming game or a Classic.

At the end of every cookout season, we present these awards to celebrate the best and brightest in the cookout arena. The nominations are voted on by a panel of professionals cookoutologists including:

  • Dr. Brittany Patterson, who earned the nation’s first Ph.D. in Cookout Engineering with her outstanding doctoral thesis researching ways to tell if the chicken is done without cutting it open.
  • James “Lil’ Joker” Simmons, who completed his second consecutive season without being set once. James is also the first person in the World Series of Spades to openly admit that he reneged.
  • Jessica Krittendon, whose mixture of ginger ale with grape, strawberry and watermelon Kool-Aid in 2001 was a game changer for the industry.
  • Charles B. Plath, veteran grill handler who is also a member of the Sweat Rag Hall of Fame.

Here are the nominees and winners of the 2018 Cookout Awards:

Best Cookout Guest


The Ice-getter: There’s always one person who is willing to run to the store to get some more ice, which is necessary because no matter how much you plan, all cookouts run out of ice and aluminum foil. By default the designated ice-getter is the person whose car is the least blocked in, which is usually also the last person who arrives, meaning the ice responsibilities often fall into the hands of someone who objects because they “just got here, auntie,” or someone who says they’re going to get some ice but just goes home instead. Then you have to send someone else. That is the person who we are nominating.


The Hider: When there is no more macaroni to be found or brown liquor to drink, a skilled cookout attendee knows that there is always someone who hid a half a pan of mac or has an extra bottle in the tire well of the trunk. The trick is knowing who has it, how to get them to share and, most importantly, using all of your espionage skills to retrieve it without anyone knowing. There is nothing worse than someone finding you with Uncle Rob’s Crown Royal. If you say no, you look stingy. If you tell them who it belongs to, you look like a snitch

Sometimes you have to kill your cousins.

The Child-Keeper: Every family has a default babysitter. It’s not even that they love kids so much, it’s that they know it’s the space they occupy in the family hierarchy. In fact, the child-keeper is never sweet and lovable. She’s usually mean and ornery, but the kids love her! But the child-keeper will play games, run around with them and keep them from dipping their hands in the fish grease.


Sometimes they will know shit that your kids won’t even tell you! If you suspect your child is being bullied at school or you’re at the mall and can’t remember your kid’s shoe size, your cousin child-keeper knows. And if you think I’m sexist for referring to the child-keeper as a woman, you’re right. I am.

I don’t trust the uncle that just wants to hang around the kids.

But the winner is: Uncle Got-It-All

Photo: iStock

To have a successful, well-planned cookout, one must first approach that person in the neighborhood who has all the shit you need. You know who I’m talking about. It’s the older guy who has a pickup truck with a trailer hitch and a barbecue grill he welded from an old 90-gallon water heater. He will never gripe, will drop it off early and help you pack it all back up. Your main job is to keep up with everything. If you lose one stake from his yard tent, he will never fuck with you again.

Every time I see my uncle Piggy, he be like: “Have you ever found my big spatula you lost at the Memorial Day cookout back in ’93?”


Worst Cookout Guest


Cheap-soda bringer: If you are having a cookout where people bring something (the technical term for this kind of cookout is: A cookout), there is always one guest who will bring a 12-pack with “soda” written on the can in magic markers. You won’t even know what flavor the soda is until you open it and drink it. Everyone ends up playing Russian roulette with soda and it always end up being root beer. Fuck root beer. No one drinks root beer! Well, I’m sure people drink root beer, but not at cookouts!


If you disagree with this, please let me know so I won’t put you down for soda at the potluck.

Sir Smoke-A-Lot: I am not anti-weed. In fact, I may have tried the marijuana a time or two. But there are people who need it. And then there are the people who not only need it, but are offended when you point out there are kids in the area and people from your church in attendance. They will respond by reminding you that it’s just a plant. Plus, that’s probably the grill you’re smelling, they’ll say as they roll up a blunt by the pasta salad.


New Vegans/Vegetarians: No, I’m not going to put tofu burgers on the grill! If God didn’t want us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made them taste so delicious! The reason why I’m not a very religious person is, if Jesus really wanted to spread the Gospel around the world, he would have made not consuming animal byproducts one of the 11 commandments (I’m pretty sure he added one about seasoned salt). There’s no greater proselytizer in the world like a new vegan.

Wait ... Maybe they were calling her the vegan Mary all along!

But the winner is: Negative Nancy

Photo: iStock

I can handle the cookout-goer who gets drunk or people who are just unruly. It’s the people who are always unsatisfied or unhappy who vex my spirit. My mother always said: “It is your responsibility to be happy.” But there are some people who will complain that it’s too hot, the music is too loud and the Kool-Aid contains too much sugar (Which is impossible, because you can always add water to too-sweet Kool-Aid, and you know what you get? More Kool-Aid!)

There’s an easy way to spot a negative Nancy. They always begin every question with:

“Y’all ain’t got no...”

Cookout song of the year


“In My Feelings,” Drake: There’s always one song that becomes a cookout song simply because old people know it and young people know it. I don’t even think people like the song. I believe everyone listens to it because they assume everyone else likes it. And based on her lack of response, I don’t think Kiki loves you, nor is she riding...


“Bitch I’m a Cow” (the Moo song), Doja Cat: I cannot comment on this song because I have yet to hear it. Ain’t God good?

“Back Dat Azz Up,” Juvenile: Like the backing up of asses, this song will never die.


But the winner is “Before I Let Go,” Franke Beverly and Maze

Frankie Beverly and the Maze perform at the Summer Soul Concert series at Newark Symphony Hall on July 12, 2009 in Newark, New Jersey.
Photo: Jemal Countess (Getty Images)

According to the bylaws established by BLACC, it is unconstitutional to have a cookout without playing this song. During a 2003 cookout, my charcoal was about to die. I played this song and not only did they burn for another 12 hours, but I made fried chicken on the grill! It was a cookout miracle.

Cookout Dance of the Year

The “In My Feelings” dance: Only because nieces taught aunties this song and because the steps are so simple even white people can do it.


The Holy Ghost shout: What? You don’t catch the holy ghost at your cookouts? That means your macaroni ain’t slamming like my Aunt Marvell’s.

Electric Slide: When I found out this song was about a vibrator, it renewed my interest, but after 48 seconds, it still gets kind of boring unless you’re drunk.


But the winner is: The Wobble

Screenshot: V.I.C.

It hasn’t been fully adopted by white people yet, but when Ellen DeGeneres figures out that jump grind shuffle-step, it’ll be over. I’d say we have 2-3 more cookout seasons.

Best Cookout Dish

Potato salad: Black America has inadvertently given white people an inferiority complex about their potato-salad skills. Don’t get me wrong, white people’s potato salad is trash. But most potato salad is trash. That’s why a great potato salad is so noteworthy.


Deviled eggs: I believe the deviled egg is one of the most underrated dishes in the cookout industry. A good deviled egg is filling, easy to eat and not hard to make. That’s why I always bring deviled eggs to a cookout, put them in the back of the host’s refrigerator, act like I forgot to take them out, take them home and eat them all myself.

Chicken: Hot dogs and hamburgers are ok, but the best food cooked on a grill is, by far, a well-seasoned leg quarter. It would be number one if not for...


But the winner is: Fried fish


I have no idea why fish tastes better when it’s cooked outside, but it just does. You could put porterhouse steaks on the grill, but when that fish comes out of that hot grease, people will be standing around waiting! And you must stand in line for it. Our research shows that a piece of fried fish lasts an average of 2.92 seconds at most cookouts.

Worst Cookout Dish

Ribs: I think it is time for us to do away with ribs as a cookout food. Although they are a traditional favorite, the problem with ribs is, everyone can’t get them. If you are high enough in the family hierarchy to have rib privileges, you will be hounded by the underrib-ileged for a taste of your ribs. If you are not high enough, then your self-esteem is ruined.


Anything “alternative”: I don’t allow turkey burgers on my grill. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could eat gelatinous circles of beige meat and pretend that shit tastes good. No one wants to hear about the dangers of eating beef at a barbecue! The same goes for vegans and people who don’t eat pork. I don’t eat pork, but I keep my meat preferences in the closet at cookouts like a true American.

White-bread hamburgers/hot dogs: If you run out of buns at your cookout, just stop cooking hot dogs and hamburgers. A patty between two pieces of Wonder Bread is not a hamburger.


It is a failure sandwich.

But the winner is: White people’s potato salad

Photo: iStock

Look at this picture. I found it under stock images for potato salad, meaning someone actually thinks that is what potato salad is supposed to look like!

The problem with colonizers’ potato salad is actually not the seasoning part. It’s that they believe they can put anything in potato salad and call it potato salad. If you think I’m joking, Google “potato salad recipe” and see how many results come up. And the most curious part about it is this: Potato salad is relatively easy to make! But I have actually seen a potato salad recipe that doesn’t include mayo! And I’m not racist, but what the fuck are apples doing in this potato salad recipe? Some things should be segregated. It might taste aight, but it’s not potato salad!


Awarded at a previous, untelevised ceremony

Condiment of the Year: For the 312th year in a row, hot sauce was the almost unanimous choice. There was one write-in vote for “Trojan Magnums,” but he may have been mistaken.


People Uninvited From the Cookout: Candace Owens, Omarosa Manigault Newman (again), Dak Prescott, Paris Dennard.

Provisional Cookout Invitations Extended To: Robert Beto” O’Rourke, Robert Mueller.


Cookout of the Year


Howard University Homecoming: Although Howard’s homecoming is traditionally outside of our cookout season, it is grandfathered in. This year was very special because our nominating committee was entertained by a very wealthy student named Tyrone. It was great.


Essence Festival: I was very nervous about this year’s Essence Festival. After Girls Trip became a runaway hit, I expected white people to try to colonize it. I was also ready to fight anyone I saw in a Creedence Clearwater Revival t-shirt, but it survived!

Aretha Franklin’s funeral: It almost won until Jasper Williams Jr. ruined everything. Then again, what else would you expect from a nigga named Jasper?


But the winner is: Black Panther weekend

Actor Michael B. Jordan (L) and writer/director Ryan Coogler at the Los Angeles World Premiere of Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER at Dolby Theatre on January 29, 2018 in Hollywood, California.
Photo: Alberto E Rodriguez (Getty Images)

There is no doubt that the opening weekend of Black Panther was the cookout of the year. If theaters were really profit-minded, they should have sold some fried fish at the concession stands and filled all the drink machines with different flavors of ... wait, I guess that would look kinda racist.

Most people don’t know that Wakanda is actually a metaphor for the cookout. Think about it:

  • Sometimes there’s a fight because someone was “challenged.”
  • There is always purple drink.
  • There are no white people are around.
  • And if they are invited, they are astonished by what they see.
  • No one is hungry.
  • There’s always one Kilmonger-like cousin who everyone loves, but you know his ass is trouble.
  • Where else would you hear: “Heeeyyyy Auntie”?

Until the 2019 cookout season begins, we bid you farewell and remember:

“Bury me at the cookout because my ancestors knew: Death is better than tofu burgers.”

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About the author

Michael Harriot

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of "it." Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.