4th of July Barbecue From America’s Melting Pot

4 Jul

“Diversity” by Charles McCaffrey (2012)

For the past several days, I’ve been struggling with the topic of my annual 4th of July blog post. Politically, things have just turned hateful and nasty in our country; and so I wanted to avoid the negativity and focus on something positive.

I’ve been on vacation for the past 2 weeks and have been trying to do something new everyday (which isn’t difficult in the Washington DC area) – and that includes trying new foods. And that got me thinking about the variety of food options we enjoy in the U.S. today; and its positive implications for diversity in society.

I remember being 5 or 6 years old and having goat’s milk feta on a Greek salad for the first time. And what about drunken noodle (Thai) or chicken tikka masala (Indian)? Just yesterday, I had a naan bowl at Merzi in the Penn Quarter of DC (https://www.merzi.com/). It was served “Chipotle-style” – meaning I could pick and choose my base (naan vs. rice), my protein (spicy chicken) and my toppings (cucumbers, pickled onions and a creamy cilantro sauce). It may be hard for younger generations to believe (because 47 is soooo old), but sriracha, salsa and banana ketchup haven’t always been standard condiments. (OK, so banana ketchup hasn’t really made it out of Puerto Rico – and probably for good reasons.) So how do you turn gastronomic diversity into a blog post about Independence Day?

And then I came across this article about food, culture and the 4th of July that had been published several years ago by Michele Kayal for NPR (http://www.npr.org/2011/07/06/137472461/july-4-barbecue-from-americas-melting-pot?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20170704).

I’ve always found it mildly ironic (and comedic) that on the day we celebrate our independence (America!) we are cooking hamburgers (German) and hotdogs (also known as frankfurters – German) and drinking beer (originated in Mesopotamia) and shooting off fireworks (China). Perhaps the most poignant line in this article is by barbecue expert Steven Raichlen, “But we have this wonderful gift, because we’re a nation of immigrants, to embrace foods and make them our own.”

Happy Independence Day!


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