Jun. 29, 2016

Happy July 4th - God Bless America!

“Those who won our independence valued liberty as an end and as a means. They believed Liberty to be the secret of happiness, and courage to be the secret of Liberty.”

Louis D. Brandeis

“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men (and women) and so it must be daily earned and refreshed else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.”  Dwight D. Eisenhower

“It will be celebrated with pomp and parade... bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.” John Adams (1735-1826) on July 4th Celebrations

I’m sure you all know that American Patriots, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both died on the same day. They had some rocky periods in their long friendship and, for a while, were at odds with each other, but when Jefferson retired from the presidency in 1809, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence that Adams and Jefferson had worked together to create, took it upon himself to renew their suspended friendship. This didn’t go too well and he had no success at all until 1811, when one of Jefferson's neighbors visited Adams in Massachusetts. The neighbor returned to Virginia with the report that he had heard Adams say, "I always loved Jefferson, and still love him." In response to these words, Jefferson wrote Dr. Rush: "This is enough for me. I only needed this knowledge to revive towards him all of the affections of the most cordial moments of our lives." He asked Rush to persuade Adams to renew their correspondence. A letter from Adams was forthcoming, and they continued to write until their deaths.

After fifteen years of resumed friendship, on July 4, 1826, Jefferson and Adams died within hours of each other. Their deaths occurred -- perhaps appropriately -- on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Unaware that his friend had died hours earlier, Adams' family later recalled that his last spoken words were, "Thomas Jefferson survives."

They would both have loved seeing the flags flying all over. So many houses in our neighborhood have been decorated with red, white and blue bunting, including ours. We will be attending our hometown parade as always, and will enjoy seeing cub scouts, girl scouts, boy scouts, every little league and soccer team and family units much like the one our family put together many years ago when our children, Leah, Patti and John were still little kids. Thinking back on this, I don’t believe Leah has forgiven us yet for forcing her at about age 12 to walk in the parade holding what I believe was a giant lollypop made of red white and blue crepe paper streamers. Patti and John decorated their bicycles with these same crepe paper streamers and, being about 8 and younger, had a great time. It was a terrible thing to do to an almost teen-ager, and I can still see her turning that thing so we couldn’t see her face when she walked by. She was furious, but she did it, bless her heart. We thought it was a lot of fun. Ahhhh.... parenting! All the stuff you have years and years to regret!

That same daughter, Patti, and her husband, Dave, will be hosting a barbeque after their hometown parade ends. Speaking of Patti, if given the opportunity to be in the parade this Monday, I think she’d do it! I’m bringing potato salad, which has been my “bring it” dish for years and years. Most of the family like my version which is the old fashioned hard boiled eggs, pickle relish, onions, potatoes, celery salt and seed, pepper, dill, mustard, mayonnaise, a dash of 1000 Island dressing and be sure to make it a couple of days before the event so everything has a chance to get acquainted and develop flavor.  I’ve cut out dozens of potato salad recipes from magazines and various newspaper cooking pages, but I’m afraid there will be mutiny if I deviate from the old familiar salad.

Several years ago, my live-in potato salad aficionado, John, and I went to Greece with some friends and some other nice folks who had chartered a yacht which came fully equipped with a very handsome captain (boat and captain pictured here...way more interesting than a bowl of potato salad) who came to dinner each night wearing an impeccable white uniform with much gold braid. Dinner, by the way, was served on beautiful china with linen tablecloth, napkins, and a daunting array of silverware. Our Captain was charming and really knew his islands, many of which we visited. There were crew members who ran the boat, cleaned our cabin... and a chef. Oh, our chef! His galley, in full view of everyone at all times, was the size of a computer workstation. He created wonders in there, baked fresh yeast bread and cinnamon rolls every day and omelets so light you had to hold them down. We were served fish so fresh it was still wiggling. And potato salad. He made potato salad that was so simple, so easy, so delicious. Small red potatoes, chopped scallions, chopped egg, capers, and Greek olive oil. He only used Greek olive oil and was openly contemptuous of anything from Italy. His potato salad was served warm and I have never once had the courage to try it, feeling that my weak attempt would be sort of like trying to duplicate Michelangelo’s David with play-doh. 

Whatever you do this July 4th weekend, be sure you have a great time with people you love, people who enjoy food, laughter, each other, and maybe you can sit out somewhere and see fireworks bursting in the sky. Put your feet in the water, have another hot dog and delight in every minute. Somewhere along the way, be sure to remember that freedom isn’t free. It has been bought and paid for at great cost by people who gave all.

Happy 4th of July! God Bless America!