Well, all that planning paid off in the end.
We ended up with one of the most beautiful days of weather I've seen in England in the last year. It was blue skies, a slight breeze, and about 28 degrees celsius. Which someone told me translates to about 82 degrees in human temperature. With the humidity, I began to worry that people were going to melt. This is England, after all. Where people aren't used to being in direct sunshine for sustained periods of time. Three jumps on the gigantic bouncy castle, and half the kids were red and sweating, and I was fetching them ice water.
After a few minutes explanation to kick it off (where I explained what a boiled peanut is, and why anyone would want to consume one on purpose) I just pointed to the labels we had put out beside each dish to help avoid the rash of questions.
This year's menu included:
... and some other stuff I'm forgetting. Probably because it was all a blur after my Bride booted me out of bed at 5:45am to go start frying the chicken.
One person came up to me afterwards to complement me on the lovely "couscous dish." At my confused look, she clarified: "the one with eggs. and cheese...?" I laughed out loud. She meant the grits. I've converted a Brit to grits. My work here is nearly complete.
The pig was cooked nearly whole (though we did ask the butcher to remove the head, as this whole gig was nominally for a 5 year old birthday party). And it was roasted to perfection, with a lot of delicious crackling. God bless the crackling. When you die and go to heaven, St. Peter will greet you with a high five and a plate of pork crackling if you've been very, very good indeed. Because there your heart won't groan quite so loudly after the third helping of the fried skin.
Why is it, I wonder, that the pig skin is so good? There aren't that many animals where you salivate at the news that someone's cooking up a mess of skin. "Mmmm. Cow skin" just doesn't seem to work.
All in all, we had about 160 people show up, 60+ of which were under 10. My landlord (who lives next door) walked over about an hour (and 70 cars) into the party. Fortunately, you couldn't ask for a nicer guy, and with a extra helping of pig and a cold beer, he was content to play the congenial squire that he is. After the food and some excellent music provided by this fabulous band (you know they're fabulous - it's in their name), we started the kids games. Starting with a water balloon fight between the five year olds and all other kids (where I made the older kids start halfway across the field and the fiver's right next to the bucket of ammo).
The water balloon fight was especially appreciated because we followed with the sack race. With the burlap. In the sacks. Jumping in hot, wet clothes. With extra burlap. The kids, they love us.
After the three legged race, we wrapped up the formal games. I tried to convince a bunch of them that there'd be a really cool prize for the "Who Can Pick Up The Most Little Smashed Bits Of Water Balloons" game, but had no takers.
The party ended with dinosaur cake, as all parties should. The Critter was happily exhausted (though she insisted on opening all her presents before going to bed). And my Bride and I were content at having pulled off another bbq bash. As it happened, I had invited enough of the bluegrass musicians I have met over the past year that when the first band stopped playing, a second whipped their instruments out and started, which was a pleasant treat.
I got to talking with one person or another that was there, and was laughing about the fact that when the Critter does eventually grow up, get married, and have kids of her own, she'll have some interesting conversations with her husband-to-be:
"Of course there will be a bluegrass band. What healthy kid doesn't have a bluegrass band at their birthday party?!"
Screwing up my kid's sense of reality is what I'm here for, after all.