“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start.”Anthony Bourdain
This upcoming Monday marks the 246th birthday of the United States of America. I will kick off the holiday weekend by sharing a bit of nostalgia from the 1970s era.
My childhood was spent in a rural hillside setting in central New York State. This might sound idyllic to some, and in truth, the older I get, the more prosaic my recollections grow of a time that was spent mostly in isolation and boredom.
It was hit or miss whether my two adult sisters, who lived far away would join us. But it was a given that we would see our maternal grandfather, aunt, uncle and cousins. I was thankful to have made so many fond memories with all of them. The annual Forth of July barbecue at our modest home on Shoemaker Hill was, at least in my eyes, the family’s hallmark summer event.
Yes, I was a band geek in high school! And for some reason, I was lucky enough to have commandeered the use of my high school’s only piccolo! It was, by far, the easiest instrument to carry while marching in the hot summer heat.
Every Forth of July morning, my sister (who played trumpet) and I would head to our little village and march in the rag-tag parade. I remember very little about these parades, except for two things:
- It was hot in our wool uniforms, which were designed to withstand cold autumn football halftime shows
- We just wanted to get it over with so we could start our family celebration
Late Afternoon Barbecue
The menu was always the same: hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, macaroni salad, corn on the cob, baked beans, potato chips and root beer floats.
My mother would make her version of the Village Market’s Mexican Hots to go in hamburger buns. She would mix ground beef with peppers, onions and crushed hot red pepper seasoning and they would be hot as Hell. I absolutely loved them!
Imagine my surprise to learn the Village Market is still open many decades later and still offers the Mexican patties!
As the sun disappeared on the horizon over Vickerman Hill, the adults retreated indoors to tell jokes and eat dessert, usually some green jello marshmallow concoction that my aunt Joan brought in a Tupperware container.
My parents, who did not drink often, would serve a local rot gut beer, I think it was Utica Club. After one beer my mom would inform everyone she was “drunk under her armpits!” To this day, I have never heard anyone else use this term, but the thought of it always puts a smile on my face.
We opted to stay outdoors with only three things in mind:
- Toasting marshmallows over the leftover hot coals of the barbecue pit
- Chasing and catching lightening bugs
- Waving around hand-held sparklers
Those days are long gone, but the memories of all the Independence Days have amalgamated into one finely orchestrated day of patriotism, innocence and fun.
I hope you are all making happy memories this Independence Day!
Thank you for reading! – Barb, the River Blogger (Btrb)
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