The Fourth of July means different things to different people. For me Independence Day will always be about the fireworks. In Oregon the state government is in the middle ground on fireworks. It's not like Vermont were sparklers and pop-its are barely legal, but we are not in Washington either, where you can shoot off just about anything. Thing is, here in Portland it's only a short drive to Washington's plethora of fireworks stands. At the Fourth of July party we always go to, there are two dad's who didn't mature like our dad. On the weekend before the fourth they take there kids up to Vancouver and buy some fireworks. Then they light them off at the Craney's annual party (the Craney's have an awesome view of the city's sanctioned fireworks). But this year the Craney's are out of town. They're not having a party. So we are.
We invited twenty of our friends for a Sunday dinner. We got fifteen bratwurst and fifteen kielbasa from Otto's, a local "sausage kitchen". We enlisted our friends to bring dessert, a salad and drinks. We bought fireworks and asked everyone else to bring some too. We bought navy beans and soaked them, strained them and are currently simmering them to make baked beans. I'm looking forward to this party.
We've started cooking in earnest now. We're making bacon on one burner, simmering beans on another and making barbecue sauce on the third, the fourth burner is broken. I've only been cooking for about fifteen minutes and the kitchen is hectic. I should probably be cleaning. Oh yeah, Simon, (a good friend who will be at the party) you were wrong this dinner is probably going to take three hours not fifteen minutes.
I've been running around the kitchen chopping all sorts of things for the beans but the most important ingredient, the beans themselves, still aren't done. In the baked beans we'll have green bell peppers, garlic, onions, bacon fat and bacon, barbecue sauce and molasses. The cooking is at a stand still thanks to those beans.
Finally the beans are done. We crumbled in the bacon added the veggies and then as dad was putting away some spices he came across one that intrigued us both. Hickory smoke seasoning the label read. Dad and I both smelled it. It smelled like wonderful, kentucky style ham. Slowly cured and smoked over a hickory fire. We added about a tablespoon to the baked beans. "Do you think that over the millenia that humans cooked food over open fires our brains became hardwired to like this smell?" Dad asked. "Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm," I replied inhaling the wonderful scent. I can't wait for this dinner. We haven't even started the main course yet.
Mom walked into the house after watering our garden and said, "Wow, Tucker you should go outside and come back in after a couple minutes." So I went outside and stood in our wonderful green garden for a little while. Then as an ice cream truck went by I came back into the house. I'm not even going to try to describe the scents that hit me like a sucker punch.
I think I'll tell you about our guest list. We're having our grandma (of course) Rachel a friend of our parents, Shanta, Dave, Simon and Tate Calem (Dave was a friend of our parents in college and Simon and I have been fast friends since about the second day of kindergarten), Tonya, Tom and Eli Huckabee-Gray and Sherri, Mark and Nicholai who we just met and are friends of the Calems.
We've lit the grill and the guests are starting to arrive. Cyrus is going outside to shoot pop-its out of his slingshot as a plume of smoke rises from the grill.
The first set of dogs are off the grill and we're starting to load our plates.
That was a good meal from the sauerkraut to the fruit and macaroni salads, the coleslaw, and baked beans (one of the few dishes I actually made), I feel like it was a good meal all over, I'd like to describe each piece but there were just to many pieces. For desert we've got a "freedom" tart by Rachel and a pecan tart by Sherri alongside some vanilla ice cream. I think it will be good but I can't be sure yet.
It was good! The freedom tart was amazing, Rachel! And that chocolate sauce, how can we be sure it wasn't just melted candy bars. We've had a lot of good food today and I'm sure we're all looking forwards to some good fireworks. The sun is beginning to set and is texturing the clouds The adults murmur outside momentarily silenced by the boom of a massive (and illegal) "mortar" firework. This meal stood tall under all it's challenges. It stood tall under the red rockets glare. On this beautiful summers day 233 years ago the whole course of history was changed. I'm glad it happened. And it was nice to have friends over for a Sunday dinner. We shared something special with them.