Party Foods with a Patriotic Past
On July 4th, in parks and backyards across the United States, Americans will celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, family, friends and barbecue. Firing up the grill on the Fourth of July has become as much an American tradition as dressing up in red, white and blue. This holiday weekend, most barbecue fans will probably be focused more on the taste of their food than its history. But many of the grill-friendly foods traditionally enjoyed on the Fourth have a pedigree that ought to make patriots proud.
Corn, for example, was domesticated by Native Americans in Mexico centuries before Columbus sailed, spread throughout the continent, and became a staple food of the American colonists who eventually founded the U.S. The red strawberries and blue blueberries often served with white cream on Independence Day in a delicious salute to the colors of the American flag descend from native North American plants. And if you eat grilled peppers, grilled squash, or potato salad at your patriotic picnic, you’re also eating foods that America introduced to the world.
Menu for an All-American BBQ
Though the traditional American barbecue feast already features many native foods, with a little extra effort, you can make your July 4th BBQ a true celebration of New World foods, American history, and the ingenuity American farmers. Base your meal around native plants and animals for a more eco-friendly feast that honors this nation’s past. Buy fruits, vegetables and meats produced right here in the USA, and you’ll support American farmers and help preserve your country’s agricultural future. Here are some suggestions for a truly All-American July 4th barbecue menu:
All-American Burgers: As a vegetarian myself, I’d personally recommend a veggie burger based on a classic American staple food: the black bean. Black beans are tasty, highly nutritious, and widely available from American farmers.
For the meat-eaters at your party, why not go lean and local with a turkey burger? The Thanksgiving icon is a native bird (in fact, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin proposed that the turkey be honored as the national bird of the United States rather than the eagle).
Those who crave red meat on the Fourth can go All-American with a bison burger. Bison meat boasts less fat and more protein than beef. Choose humanely raised, grass-fed bison meat from a U.S. farm.
New World Sides: Higher in essential Vitamin A than the ordinary potato, the sweet potato also hails from the Americas, and is excellent baked, made into salad, or sliced into a healthier version of the fry.
Fresh sweet corn is in season locally in many U.S. states in July. American-grown summer squash and zucchini are just coming into season in the Midwest at this time of year, and should be available in abundance in the South.
A Patriotic Picnic Finale: Unfortunately, the apple tree really isn’t “as American as apple pie” — it’s an import from Asia. But strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, black cherries and cranberries are all native American fruits. A fresh berry salad or berry cobbler made with fresh local fruit would make a tasty tribute to American food history.
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