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Foods for the Fourth of July

Special foods really ground a commemorative event.  While there’s nothing wrong with the traditional 4th of July picnic or barbecue (with potato salad, hot dogs, etc.), they don’t have anything in particular to do with the history behind the celebration.  An idea we had is to focus on the “Three Sisters” (corn, beans and squash), the most classically American foods that also represent the concept of Interdependence. We are also borrowing from the Passover tradition the idea of eating fresh vegetables dipped in salt water, representing the idea that new growth is often accompanied by sweat and tears.  And of course there’s no harm in having a nice Red, White and Blue dessert.

We have chosen foods to help commemorate important aspects of the history and to provide sustenance for the work of the future.  Rather than eat all of the foods at once, we suggest that different foods be eaten at specific times during the observance.

The menu we have chosen consists of:

  • Raw vegetables: Be sure that you have enough for each participant to have at least two pieces, and that they are of appropriate size and shape for dipping. These can include small, individual items like scallions and radishes, and cut sticks of carrot, celery, jicama, broccoli and/or cucumber.  You may also wish to have sliced or whole boiled eggs for each participant.  These may represent the birth of the new, and the hearty roughness of pioneering spirits.
  • Salt water for dipping the cut vegetables (and eggs).  As in the Passover Seder, the salt water is there to remind us of the sweat and tears that accompany times of change and struggle.  It also reminds us of our evolutionary connection to the oceans that unites all life on earth.
  • Dishes based on the “Three Sisters” – corn, beans and squash: These hearty components have special significance for the Fourth of July for many reasons.  Choose what is appropriate and available to you in early July, with summer squashes like zucchini or sunburst squash.  You may wish to create a cornbread, tamale, chile con elote or cornpone dish that includes some of all three, or you may emphasize each in a separate dish to be eaten alongside the other two (for example, corn on the cob, chili or baked beans, and summer squash that is sautéed, grilled or fried).
  • Historically, these are foods that were native to the Americas.  They were grown by the indigenous people of North America, and were critical to the survival of the European immigrants who came there, including those colonists who became the Founders of the United States of America.
  • In several senses, they also represent the strength, resilience and durability we find in diverse communities of sharing.  The “Three Sisters” are a classic set of companion plants, traditionally planted together because they help one another grow.  The beans fix nitrogen in the soil to encourage the growth of all three plants.  The corn provides a tall stalk on which the beans can climb. The squash shades the ground to help retain water and prevent the growth of weeds.  These foods were shared by the native farmers of the Americas with the European colonists that immigrated to their lands, and the Europeans brought them back to the “Old World.”  So, for both botanical and cultural reasons, these three foods together are a beautiful illustration of the concept of Interdependence and the importance of community.
  • Red, White and Blue Dessert: We plan a dish of local red berries (strawberries or red raspberries), blue berries (blueberries or boysenberries) with vanilla ice cream, pudding or fresh whipped cream. This is something beautiful and sweet to help us create and hold the vision the future we want. Save this until after the reading and discussion of a New Declaration.
  • Drink: What drinks seem most appropriate to your group? There are many appropriate options.  Madeira wine was very popular with the authors and signers of the Declaration of Independence.  One of the signers (Samuel Adams) was a brewer of beer, and another (William Whipple) was the son of a one-time brewer.  In mid-summer, drinks like lemonade and iced tea are especially welcome (particularly the home-made kinds).  Be sure there is also plenty of water (particularly if you’re going to be out in the heat), and enough of whatever you choose for everyone to drink several toasts.
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