Feasts on 4th was Re: [gardeners] Oh, Lord; here we go with Barb

Catharine Vinson (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Fri, 3 Jul 1998 18:11:19 +0000

Margaret wrote:

> See what you started, Allen?

Indeed. Got to thinking about 4th celebrations when I was growing up. On 
the theory that memory is tricky and accurate more in recording the aura 
of a situation than the actual events, I am listing what I remember Mother 
and/or friends from Houston  serving through the years. It constitutes my 
notion of the ideal menu for the 4th.

1. Mountains of icy cold boiled shelled shrimp with the tails still 
attached, so you could dunk the little dears into pools of thick red sauce 
that you made yourself and poured from chilled pitchers. I'' always add 
some fresh horseradish to my red sauce.

2. Fried chicken, but more often cold rather than hot. Houston was just 
too hot for hot food on the Fourth. Or huge, thick grilled steaks that 
were cooked until barely warm in the center then sliced across the grain 
and served to a crowd. OR the Best Hamburgers In America. Huge, thick, no 
filler. RARE!

3. Potato salad. If you cheated and used store bought mayonnaise, you'd 
better add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or people would talk. Lots and 
lots of celery in the salad. Ditto lots of finely chopped green onion.

4. Corn on the cob, dripping butter. Texas' corn isn't usually something 
to brag about; I never realized how heavenly corn could be until I found 
myself in the mid-west for several 4th of July. Really magnificent stuff 
is truly fresh corn grown in an environment less brutal than south Texas.. 

5. Baked beans. Made no sense at all, but I always remember them being 
part of the celebration.

6. Huge green salads made with every kind of lettuce and green that could 
be found for love or money.. Mother was a health nut even then <bg>. 
Sliced tomatoes.

7. Biscuit: Hot, golden, crusty on the outside, and flaky to the fingers.
Never from a can. Always made from scratch no more than 10 minutes before
dinner. Everything else could be cold, but the biscuit had to be HOT.

8. Homemade preserves. Strawberry or dewberry.

9. A whole ham baked and served cold if Cousin Sadie were coming for the 
day. Nobody minded, since it meant ham for macaroni and cheese for weeks. 
And weeks. And weeks.

10. Devilled eggs. No proper Houston/Southron gathering with company and
extended family can be conducted without several platters of these passed
around before dinner to accompany The Relish Tray (celery, pickles, 
radishes, olives). Always made with homemade mayonnaise, unless you had no 
pride at all. Always with oozing filling piped decoratively into the 
center of the whites. Always finished with a dusting of paprika over the 
entire creation. Always eaten to a chorus of "ooh-ah", while the hostess 
murmured, "I know they are old-fashioned and tacky and bad for you, but 
it's (name of holiday) so it will be alright just this once." And it was. 
Life without a proper devilled egg-serving platter simply would  be 
tragic, indeed.

11. Watermelon. Hempstead melons; nothing else would do. Ice cold. Really 
ice cold and like the shrimp, presented  on a bed of ice if at all 
possible. Whether eaten on fine china with fruit knife and fork or 
out of hand, perfectly permissible to spit the seeds. Spitting rights were 
the chief attraction of watermelon for many kids, I suspect.

12. Lemon meringue pie. HUGE crown of pale gold meringue. So little sugar 
in the filling as to make your fillings ache when you took that 
first bite. OR homemade peach ice cream. Never both; 'twouldn't be fittin.

13. Tea. Gallons of it.

All of this to be followed by the ceremonial loading, tamping, and firing 
of genuine brass canons on their carriages, firecrackers (lots of cherry 
bombs), roman candles, and sparklers. And finally, Alka-Seltzer and sleep.