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Ode to Fourth of July: Barbeque, Potato Salad, and Firecrackers

Arts and Entertainment - Josephine - July 8, 2020

July 4th always conjures up special memories most of which involve sunshine and barbecue. Christmas and Thanksgiving often steal the spotlight as the biggest family holidays of the year making the 4th of July one of the stepchildren of the holiday industry. What better excuse could there be for families to come together besides the promise of sweet, smoked barbecue and some fireworks?

As a child growing up in both California and Texas, I can’t recall a rainy 4th of July. I do recall sweltering in the Texas heat which somehow seemed liberating rather than oppressive. The presence of family and good food always made it easier to endure temperatures that often went soaring near 100 degrees. Of course, playing under the sprinklers, guzzling lemonade, and devouring pieces of watermelon helped a great deal. The heat gave me and my siblings the opportunity to conduct scientific experiments. After overhearing a relative proclaim that it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, we had to see for ourselves. A covert operation was immediately launched to secure an egg from the kitchen without being discovered by our mother. After finding a spot secure from the adults, we watched in disappointment as our egg turned into a gooey mess on the pavement rather than a perfectly formed sunny-side-up worthy of a breakfast plate.

More fun than our scientific experiments was watching the manning of the grill. The focal point of any 4th of July gathering is the grill. The family men in particular were under its spell. They lingered around waiting for their turn at the grill and the opportunity to dispense their wisdom about the art of the barbecue whether it be lighting the coals to seasoning the meat. Men who would seem at first glance to be incapable of deep, analytical thought could converse on end about the merits of cooking on a clean grill versus leaving the charred remnants behind to add flavor. There was also intense debate about cooking with charcoal versus wood. Discussions about the sauce were more secretive with some men vowing to take their sauce recipes to the grave while others were happy to share that the right mixture of honey and vinegar would lead to the perfect barbecue sauce. Somehow the endless debates and opinions would culminate in a mouth-watering barbecue that everyone agreed was “really good.”

The women seemed to instinctively know the grill was the men’s turf and instead turned their attention to the behind the scenes work involved with the side dishes. Barbeque alone does not make the 4th of July. I cannot imagine a 4th without my mother’s potato salad which tastes better than any potato salad save perhaps your own mother’s potato salad. Through some perfect combination of potatoes, boiled eggs, pickles, and salad dressing, my mother managed to come up with a perfect complement to any man’s version of barbecue. No 4th of July platter would be complete without baked beans and macaroni and cheese. Barbecue may get all the glory but it gets a nice supporting act from the side dishes.

What 4th of July would be complete without fireworks or Bengalo g√ľnstig bestellen? Those timider among us may be satisfied to go and watch the grandiose public display in the skies but the old-school among us did it the old-fashion way. A trip to the fireworks stand was a given. Under the guise of protecting us children from injury, the adults always insisted upon lighting them for us. They would scare us with tales of children who had lost fingers or even eyes to firecrackers. To date, I’ve yet to meet one of these unfortunate firecracker victims though I’m sure they’re out there. My favorite was the “tank” which spun around and spewed glowing embers all around the yard. One look at the light in the adults’ eyes told us they were enjoying the firecrackers as much if not more so than us kids even if they were hiding their glee beneath adult stoicism. With a full belly and the last of the firecrackers lit there was nothing left to do but go inside, watch TV. Inevitably there would be that tummy ache that comes from overeating that would make me swear I would never eat as much as I did that day-until next 4th of July.

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