Getting in the mood for the 4th of July

I love holidays and the 4th of July is no exception. This holiday has special meaning for me because my father died on July 3rd and I used to think that the fireworks were for him. I have a few traditions that I started. My house goes all red, white and blue, we hang a flag from our terrace, watch the movie musical 1776 and later, after the sun goes down, we stand on our terrace and watch all of the fireworks in the Western suburbs. They cascade across the sky and it always conjures up the Star Spangled Banner for me with “bombs bursting in air.” And for some reason, that I honestly cannot remember, July 4th mostly means Southern cooking. You know – oven fried chicken, cornbread, greens and either my Bourbon Pecan Pie or Blueberry Pie. We’re most definitely NOT from the South – my father’s family was from New England via Kiev and my mother’s family came from New York via The Pale of Settlement. And I have no memories of any childhood traditions for this holiday, but oh well, there you have it.

This year, however, everyone is away. Frances and Matthew will be out of the country and on a separate trip so will my sister and niece and her family. That leaves my 92 year-old mother and my husband. So now you know why I am trying to work myself up into the mood. I hate cooking for just the two of us or even 2.35 if you count my mother and the way she eats. So tonight I am eating some wonderful Rancho Gordo Yellow Eye Heirloom Beans that I slow-cooked in my crockpot and a “mess o’ greens.” I was introduced to this incredible source for great dried beans when Frances and I and our husbands took a trip to Napa Sonoma. We ate dinner one night at the Culinary Institute of America and they were serving some amazing beans. Everything in California is “sourced” and you didn’t just eat meat, but meat from such and such farm that ate only a grass-fed diet and was sung to sleep each night to the melody from Fur Elise. After that wonderful meal, it seemed that everywhere we went had some Rancho Gordo beans. I got a bit carried away this winter and ordered 20 pounds of beans which for two people is quite a lot of beans. So I’m trying to use them now in things that go beyond soup. They are great in soup, especially the Christmas Lima Beans, but that’s still a LOT of beans. I made some wonderful beans last week that I will tell you about another time, but I digress.

Soooooooooooo to get back to the 4th of July, along with this wonderful pot of beans and I have collard greens and kale (they were out of mustard greens) that I cooked slowly with sweet onions and speck, instead of smoked turkey leg or ham hocks and I’ll grill up some garlic chicken sausages for dinner. If I have time when I get home, I just might make a recipe I found for Blueberry Buckle. I’ll let you know how it turns out. And if this doesn’t get me in the mood for July 4th, well at least we ate well!

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