by Caren Crane
At work recently, they posted a survey on our Intranet site asking what peoples' must-have food item was for Independence Day. Our headquarters are in Raleigh, North Carolina, where we don't have genteel picnics like the lovely Regency/Victorian affair pictured here. There are never footmen waiting to fetch the hampers and no one ever clears up the mess left behind except the picnickers themselves. When we have a cookout, we do it Southern style. For that reason, the choices on our workplace survey had a distinctly Southern flare. In the South there is nothing we love better than a cookout (or any other affair involving food), so this survey attracted a lot of responses. I did not agree with all the choices presented, but managed to choose one. The choices were:
1. Southern-style BBQ - I could see where they got this one, but I've never considered BBQ a necessity at the 4th of July festivities. North Carolina, though, is the leading hog producer in the United States so I know that many here take their pork products very seriously. They have a tradition here called a "pig picking". They roast a whole pig on a spit over a fire (or on a smoker if they have one for the purpose) and people literally pick the meat off the pig once it's done. I find this a barbaric and unappealing pasttime despite the 28 years I've lived in North Carolina. This one did not get my vote.
2. Corn on the cob - This was more like it. I remember many a family reunion at my paternal grandfather's farm (it was a hobby farm on his timber property) where corn was wrapped in foil and roasted on the grill, as God intended. It wasn't just any old corn, either. It was sweet, white Silver Queen corn that had just been picked from the fields near the house. Best. Corn. Ever! I seriously considered voting for the corn because of my fond memories of the Crane family reunions, but I did not vote for this one.
3. Ice cream - At the above-mentioned family reunion, as well as at reunions on the Dugger side of the family, there was always homemade ice cream. I remember when the ice cream churn had to be loaded with ice cubes and salt and hand-cranked for hours until the ice cream was done. Of course, Poppa Crane had an automatic ice cream maker as soon as they came on the market, which was a nice break for the young men in the family, but I remember the hand-cranked churns and the fresh peach ice cream with a sweet pang of nostalgia. Despite all those peach and vanilla memories, though, I did not vote for ice cream.
4. Hamburgers and hot dogs - The American favorites, burgers and dogs. I have so many memories of grilling hamburgers and hot dogs I have trouble singling any out. I have enjoyed grilled meats as centerpieces of cookouts in Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Alabama. I have eaten tons of burgers and dogs and enjoyed each and every carcinogen-laden mouthful. There are few pleasures greater than a hot dog grilled within an inch of its life, popped open at the ends, blackened at the grill marks, slathered in mustard and relish. Mm, mm good! Still, my family gave up beef and pork a couple of years ago and I don't miss beef burgers much. All the hot dogs I've had have been chicken or turkey, which are good but just aren't the same. So, I did not vote for burgers and dogs.
5. Watermelon - Aaah, watermelon. Nothing evokes images of summer quite like watermelon. Hefting a two-inch-thick slice from half a watermelon is one of life's simple, sticky pleasures. As a kid, we always ate watermelon outside. We sprinkled it lightly with salt (no idea why) and spit seeds gleefully into the yard. By the time we reached the slightly-sour part next to the rind, our bare arms and legs were covered in juice. Watermelon eating was followed by turning on the hosepipe (which is what we called the garden hose) and washing the juice off our sun-kissed bodies with clear, cold water. Yes, watermelon means summer to me and watermelon got my Independence Day vote.
Of course, others did not agree with me. Hamburgers and hotdogs won by a landslide, with watermelon coming in a distant second. Corn on the cob was third, BBQ fourth and ice cream dead last, finishing with only 3% of the vote. Much as we all love ice cream, its life is fleeting in the Southern July heat and it simply couldn't hold its own. My own Independence Day must-have is blueberry/blackberry cobbler. It didn't even make the survey!
What are your Independence Day favorites? If you don't celebrate Independence Day, what would you have chosen from our five survey items? Do any evoke splendid summer memories? We would love to hear them!
And for all of you in the United States, HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!!