Independent Considerations

Eating Over The Sink

Some people can tell what time it is from looking at the sun. I have never been able to do that; the light is always too bright for me to see the numbers.

The numbers for this month are 4 and 13, representing July 4th and the original 13 colonies and states in the Union. Numerical symbolism has been an important part of July 4th celebrations since the beginning of our country. In the early days, 13 was held in high regard. It was honored by the number of toasts offered up at dinners, by the number of artillery blasts at celebrations, and in a myriad of other ways. In Philadelphia in 1777, for example, ships in the harbor discharged 13 cannons. And in the evening, an exhibition of fireworks both began and concluded with 13 rockets. Groups having local celebrations made floats 13 feet high. Bands played for 13 minutes. Young girls, 13 of them, dressed in fancy frocks and paraded around. And, even as more states entered the Union over the years, many concerned citizens kept the ceremonial number at 13, as it would clearly be too cumbersome, not to mention loud, to fire off 30 or 40 artillery salutes, and too unwise to tip the glass so many times while giving speeches.

But, what has to be the best example of numerical patriotism was the 1777 Free Masons meeting, held at a not then secret, but now unknown location. Present at this fete were 13 members who ate 13 different meat dishes, drank 13 loyal American toasts, and sang 13 songs. The bill for their bar tab included charges for 13 bottles of wine and 13 bowls of toddy. And, they spent 13 hours, from 8am until 9pm, celebrating the Grand Ol’ Flag, even though it wasn’t very old at the time. How could the number 13 ever have come to be seen as unlucky, I ask you?

Everyone knows that food and drink are always associated with celebrations, and July 4th parties have been no different. In 1783 a community in Salem, North Carolina held a special freedom service, followed by what was called a Lovefeast. Far be it from me to speculate on what all was served at that gathering, but we do know that the citizenry of Richmond, Virginia resolved a few years later, in 1808, that only liquor produced in America would henceforth be drunk on the 4th. And, doubtlessly the result of too many Lovefeasts, one Judge Bushrod Washington of Mount Vernon announced in 1822 that “steamboat parties” and “eating, drinking, and dancing parties” would no longer be permitted in celebration of July 4th.

In 1840 in Providence, Rhode Island, townspeople held a July 4th clam bake at which some 220 bushels of clams were consumed. A grand time was had by most, except for those folk who, two years later, held the Grand Total Abstinence Celebration.

But, by far, the best example of grandiose food to celebrate the 4th of July was at Orlando, Florida in the year 2000. Bakers at Disney World produced a 1-1/2 ton, 24-by 13-foot cherry cobbler decorated to look like the star-spangled banner, and served it to all and sundry.

Which brings us to homemade ice cream, made in the backyard.

This tale comes from a time before we lived Low Carb. It was the 4th of July, and a party was under way at friend Jim’s house. The women were inside, a-fixin’ and a-chattin.’ Host Jim was smoking a turkey in an old BBQ over by the fence. And, Harry, Steve, and Yours-Truly were making peach ice cream in an electric ice cream maker perched on the picnic table.

It doesn’t take three people to make ice cream in an electric ice cream machine, you’re thinking? Au contraire, mes amis. It takes at least three: one to comment on the amount of ice needed, one to hold forth on the quantity of salt required, and one to keep looking inside the metal container to wonder why the cream mixture is not changing one iota!

There we were. Harry is saying, “It must need more ice! Yes, that’s it. Pour on more ice!!” He does it, and ice flies all around. Some gets into the bucket of the machine, where it belongs.

I object. “No, Harry, there’s plenty of ice. It needs more salt!” Since I know everything there is to know about all subjects, I know that salt makes ice melt at a lower temperature, which transfers more cold to the cream mixture so that it forms ice cream. In theory. I pour more salt onto the ice. Some goes on the ice; some goes on the table. None goes into the cream mixture, but only because the metal can has a lid.

Steve sighs, and opens the canister one more time. “No change, guys. Still liquid.”

This goes on for thirty, maybe forty-five minutes. We aredrinking beer produced only in America as instructed by the good citizens of Richmond, and we’re having a fine time. We continue to slosh around in the melt-off water from the ‘more ice’ advocate, while we pick up salt crystals from the picnic table, one crystal at a time, and flick them in the direction of the dog.

Enter Glorious Spouse. Actually ‘exit’ is more to the point, as she came out of the house, this in an attempt to find out what the heck was holding up the show.

“No, it’s not done,” reported Steve. “It really needs more ice,” declared Harry. “More salt,” asserted Zack. Steve opened the canister for at least the 25th time.

Once more proving how clever I was to marry her in the first place, Glorious Spouse gazed into the cream mixture, following Steve’s urging. Then she asked The Big Question. “Where is the paddle???”

Paddle. Sometimes called the Dasher.

Well, here’s the straight skinny for those of you who might be unfamiliar with the extremely fine art of ice cream making: the ice cream would never have firmed-up, not in this lifetime or the next, without being stirred. That’s what the paddle/dasher does. That’s why they give you a paddle/dasher when you buy the machine.

Triumphant Steve! Don’t know what he was so cocky about, he hadn’t noticed the paddle wasn’t there! Anyway, off he went to look in the box the machine came out of, and (imagine that!) the object was immediately located, and attached. Everyone lived happily ever after.

On July 4th, 1992 the seven astronauts in the space shuttle Columbia unfurled the American flag and sang “Happy Birthday, America” from space. Nine years later, in 2001, astronauts on the International Space Station proclaimed, “We give thanks to our ancestors. And to all Americans, we wish a Happy Independence Day.” Glorious Spouse and I second, fourth, and thirteenth those emotions.


Zack Grady writes from a town near Disneyland, where fireworks light up the sky at precisely 9:35pm every night, all summer long.

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Eating Over The Sink

ZACK GRADY writes from Southern California. He reads cookbooks, but mostly, he just adds garlic and hot sauce.

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