Sunday, July 4, 2010

Random Musings on Fun, the Fourth - and FOOD

Did you ever wonder why so many of our holidays are associated with food? Is it simply the fact that certain things require harvesting, therefore we make sure they're part of a certain holiday? (This works for ham and fresh green things in the spring for Easter and cranberries for Thanksgiving. So why isn't there a holiday associated with those endless bags of zucchini that your neighbors inundate you with?)

Of course traditional meals are lovely - part and parcel of our heritage, whatever that may be. Brits certainly cling to the tried and true...sausage rolls, mince pies and Christmas pudding, for example. And here in the USA, nothing says Independence Day like the smell of dogs, steaks, chicken...anything that can be slathered in sauce and doesn't slip through the bars of the grill. (Okay, something always does, but what the heck. It's the Fourth of July. Leave the lid off and something will come and eat it. It's the circle of life, new millennium style. Burned chicken bits + a crow or two after the grill cools down = happy birds.)

However, in this day and age of the latest diet, the fact that untold millions of us are currently obese and we acknowledge the health risks of that extra avoirdupois, I have to wonder why The Powers That Be (i.e. Madison Avenue and/or Apple, which can i-everything these days) haven't begun to steer us away from the baked beans and potato salad so beloved of party goers on July Fourth. Where are the soy-substitutes? The mounds of pretend potato salad that couldn't find Idaho on a map or recognize real mayonnaise if it fell on 'em? Don't even get me started on "fat-free lite" mayonnaise. My adjectives pertaining to that little mess of unpronounceable chemical components...well, they start with "eeeeuuuwww" and go downhill from there.

Yes, I'm sure there are healthy folks out there planning on barbecuing a fat Portobello mushroom and pretending it's a hamburger. (After their morning five mile run, of course.) Er... I ain't one of 'em. As far as I'm concerned, a fungus on a bun is a science experiment not a meal. Making healthy "substitutes" is all well and good. But now and again, I ask myself why we've come to make these associations in the first place, and I'm coming up short of answers.

I don't know why we eat baked beans on July Fourth. The cans are ripe? I'm not a cowboy out of Blazing Saddles, so a need to produce methane has nothing to do with it. And I sure as heck don't know why potato salad (which I adore, btw) is such a big summer hit, since it's made with mayo and will go off if the temperature goes up, resulting in a nasty case of summer tummy. Wouldn't it have been smarter to make a salad with all the good fresh green stuff and a boatload of those first fresh red tomatoes? Then insist that it's "Independence Salad" and toss in some chunks of white cheese and a few blueberries. Patriotic goodness in a bowl.

It's odd, really, this incredibly solid connection we humans have made between our celebrations and the food we serve at them. There are lots of GOOD reasons, I know. Ones that are logical. But every now and again one or two of these associations sneak up on me and smirk, daring me to figure them out. Usually when I'm in the supermarket wondering who would, in fact, BUY twenty cans of baked beans for such a low sum of money. And why another shopper is apparently rushing to collect as many jars of dehydrated things-she-can't-pronounce as she can get. Remind me to pass on the potato salad at her house.

So I will follow my own holiday traditions when it comes to food. Basically if someone else cooks it, it's probably wonderful. And if somebody else cleans up afterwards - it's a gourmet meal fit for a king. I'm a woman of simple tastes and I'll keep on scarfing up the potato salad on July Fourth because I love potato salad and it makes me feel festive. I just need to stop asking myself why, and make sure that's the ONLY day I scarf up potato salad. Maybe that's the next big diet...only eat certain foods on certain holidays.

Betcha there'll be a lot more holidays appearing soon if this diet catches on. And none of them will involve those damn zucchini....

Happy Independence Day,

Flavia's Flying Corset by Sahara Kelly
A new steampunk story, coming November 30th, 2010, from Samhain Publishing; part of the "Silk, Steel and Steam" anthology.

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