Written By: Ben Cosgrove

If there’s one consolation during the scorching, often unbearably humid days of summer, it’s the prospect of being outdoors with friends and family, swapping stories and enjoying a cold beverage as a huge variety of food cooks on a nearby grill, filling the air with the mouthwatering aroma of a good old-fashioned barbecue.

Here, LIFE.com offers up a selection of photographs celebrating one of the season’s time-honored traditions: the picnic and barbecue, or barbeque, or BBQ. However you spell it, it still translates as “delicious.”

Liz Ronk edited this gallery for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

Backyard barbecue, 1953.

Backyard barbecue, 1953

Gordon Parks Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

One of only thirteen American women   known as the Mercury 13   to participate in NASA's Mercury space program, Jerrie Cobb (left) barbecues in 1959.

One of only thirteen American women — known as the Mercury 13 — to participate in NASA’s Mercury space program, Jerrie Cobb (left) barbecues in 1959.

Ralph Crane TIME & LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Jerrie Cobb keeps watch over the grill, 1959.

Jerrie Cobb keeps watch over the grill, 1959.

Ralph Crane TIME & LIFE Pictrues/Shutterstock

Barbecue, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1953

Eliot Elisofon Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Family barbecue, 1960

Ralph Crane TIME & LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Family barbecue, 1960

Ralph Crane TIME & LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1953

Eliot Elisofon TIME & LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Beach barbecue, Massachusetts, 1953.

Beach barbecue, Massachusetts, 1953

Eliot Elisofon TIME & LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Beach barbecue, Florida, 1956

Lisa Larsen TIME & LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Fraternity picnic and barbecue, UCLA, 1940s.

UCLA fraternity picnic and barbecue, 1940s.

Walter Sanders TIME & LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Florida barbecue, 1961

Lynn Pelham Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Vermont barbecue, 1957.

Vermont barbecue, 1957

Walter Sanders TIME & LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

Vermont barbecue, 1957.

Vermont barbecue, 1957

Walter Sanders TIME & LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

John D. Lodge (in the suit), the governor of Connecticut from 1951-55, surveys the scene at a salmon barbecue in 1953.

John D. Lodge (in the suit), the governor of Connecticut from 1951-55, surveys the scene at a salmon barbecue in 1953.

Ed Clark TIME & LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

A gathering of well-dressed guests at a barbecue in Fairfield County, Conn., 1949.

Fairfield County barbecue, Connecticut, 1949

Nina Leen TIME & LIFE Pictures/Shutterstock

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