Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4th.....What would the founders think of our holiday fare?

When I was a youngster the 4th of July was something truly special; from the bunting along the parade route to the bar-b-ques and fireworks, it was a holiday to be reckoned with as far as festivities were concerned.

We really had picnics and potato sack races, hot dog eating contests, egg races (running across the field with a raw egg on a teaspoon a la Rata Nui....well, maybe not so dramatic as all that) and so on....the air thick with charcoal and burgers.  Soda pop tasted different then, so did lots of other things back when even cereal was "shot with sugar through and through."

I wonder what our founders would have thought of our diets...well maybe not even the whole cuisine Americana, just a meal in the July 4th.    I wonder what they might have thought.

Hot dogs might have been more familiar than we think; sausage having been a form of meat preservation for a long time and in a lot of cultures.  Although our franks resemble more of the German than Italian variety, which would actually be more to the liking of say, George Washington.  He, Ben Franklin and the others would probably have enjoyed themselves thoroughly; no doubt taking the time to knock back a few beers with the local chaps.  Would they appreciate our modern brew, or find it wanting....too cold....too "light."
And then there's every modern cooking apparatus. Between the gas grills, microwave ovens, refrigeration and thermos containers they'd be totally amazed.....let alone the fact that we have electricity, cars, phones and so much else.  We might overhear whispers of witchcraft from the peanut gallery!

The world has come a long way since our Founders took that courageous stand for freedom back in 1776....
but in a lot of ways we're still very much the same underneath all the modern trappings.

One of my favorite things about picnics, July 4th or otherwise, is Potato Salad.  /


There are as many ways to make it as there are stars in the sky; but they all have one very important ingredient-properly cooked, not mushy but not too hard potatoes.
After that it's all mixing and marination.

Potato Salad
To boil, steam or bake?  Well, steaming and baking retain more flavor....but again this is all a preference issue.   If boiling, start with cold water....cut 'taters into bite sized cubes.....peeling is also an option.  Lots of times I don't.. Bring water to a medium boil for10 to 15 minutes, or until a toothpick goes into the potato with little resistance.  Drain, run under cold water, drain again then chill for an hour in the fridge.

While that's taking place prepare your other ingredients.  As a child, I couldn't stand green bell peppers in potato salad. Mom had a terrible time trying to convince me of the culinary merit but I'd hear none of it.  These days I'm more open-minded but still consider it just one of many variations.

Diced onion, celery, hard boiled eggs....some folks even add bacon or olives....and there are several varieties of those to work with! German Potato Salad is warm and has a sweet, tangy vinegar nature to it.

White or American Potato Salad comes to us via comes to the plate cool, creamy and inviting.  Mayo is great, and can be added with a little sour cream or yogurt for an interesting turn of flavor- again, just an option.

Spices are important...important enough to be added with great care.  They shouldn't over power any of the other ingredients; rather they should be humble, complementary and well rounded.  Celery flakes (dried celery leaves) are fine if answered by something like a hint of garlic....salt and pepper to taste (dietary concerns to be considered), a dash of sweet paprika-not too heavy handed on this one!

Some will argue that pickle relish should be added....personally I don't, but that's just my own taste.

Pretty much just go with what you think tastes good together and don't forget to toss lightly rather than mix...let it rest periodically then when it's done cover it and put it in the fridge 'til it's time for service (or transporting to the cooler for the picnic!)

There are so many varieties of this dish, it's hard to pick a favorite.  Just remember to not over-cook the spuds, chill them before making them into salad and toss them lightly and you'll be fine.

If you'd like to share your recipes or other comments feel free. For now, happy 4th of July!


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