Festive Food For An Explosive Occasion

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The Dark Side Of Fireworks

Here on scenic little Bainbridge Island, The Grand Old Fourth Of July has become something of a circus. When my kids were small, we often participated in the all-island parade, which used to mainly consist of floats for various local, kid-centered activities and usually quite creative entries dreamed up by local businesses and service groups. Kids stomped along gamely, carrying banners that drooped periodically as the youngest ones stopped to wave at neighbors or family. People lining up to dunk a popular adult in the splash barrel good naturedly got out of the way as the parade wandered by. Candy was tossed, streamers flapped, dogs barked at horses, balloons escaped small hands. Bands played merrily, the musicians managing to play while either marching in more-or-less step or balancing precariously aboard a rickety float.

Sometimes special interest groups would step up: library folk strutting their synchronized book cart stuff, or basset hound owners united! Once in a while we’d get the Wells Fargo Wagon, pulled by handsome horses, or Blackbird Bakery would produce its huge, many-legged pie, crust slices flapping open to reveal a flock of young kids decked out as blackbirds. T&C staffers swam downstream in a giant silvery salmon costume and skip ropers performed dazzling feats of skippery. Back in the day, the family might be taking part in several floats, so once we reached the finish line with, say, the cub scouts on a firetruck, we’d rush back to join a group of Little Leagers or sing old timey music with an impromptu band in the bed of somebody’s elderly pickup.

Small Town Parade Makes Way Too Good

These days, the parade has become a major attraction that brings many thousands of people to our small island (30,000 last year). The narrow main street has become so densely thronged that the fair booths have been pushed off to side streets, and along with local folk fund raising for local causes, many are now manned by professional vendors. Traffic is congested for hours and parking is ridiculous. Instead of friendly calling out to neighbors and friends as they pass by, packed sidewalks make it hard for parade participants and observers alike to see who’s actually in the parade, now over a mile long. Does this sound sour?

Sorry. It’s obvious that the new, gigantic version pleases many, many people far more than it does grumpy old me, yet I’m pretty sure the reason all these happy, pleasant visitors are here is because they, too, want a taste of that little old home town version. Even as their arrival alters the nature of the event, they apparently like what they see even more as it morphs. Ok, stop. Hmmm. Maybe I’m so out of sorts because my sleep has been broken for the past week by explosive barrages of fireworks. Not just a few now and then, but lengthy sequences that are very, very loud. My cat huddles nervously at the back of my bedroom closet as neighborhood dogs howl in fear and panic. Sleepy birds startle in the trees, and I can only imagine what the local deer and other wildlife feel about what surely sounds like gunfire to them. I think too about our area’s refugees, recent arrivals from war torn parts of the world where such sounds definitely were not celebratory but terrifying.

No Turning Back?

All this jumbles in my weary brain as I struggle to find something cheerful and positive to say about the state of this beloved little island, about our beloved America, and the beloved world we all share. However, after thrashing it all out, I find that I wouldn’t really choose to turn the clock back to another time. Despite the many horrible trends and unconscionable events of recent times, the people of this world are making progress. Though we hear little about the many positive trends and events, they are happening. Though the current wars are horrific beyond measure, there are fewer wars going on right now than ever in history. Though hate crimes are being reported more openly and frequently, there is less violent crime in general than ever before. Though old guard (and mostly white) men in positions of power are doing their utmost to oppress and exploit everyone else, younger generations are far more open to change and tend to honor progressive ideas.

Anyone who reads history is aware that this country, and indeed every country in the world, has never been a place of peace and prosperity for the many. For millennia, the 99% lived in deep poverty while today, less than half the world’s population is desperately poor. The fact that several billion people live on the edge of starvation is certainly not great, but better than those bad old days? Yes, and the improvement continues worldwide, if in fits and starts. As of this year, nearly two thirds of the planet has a cell phone and over half the world population uses smart phones, creating an unprecedented flow of communications and international connections. I have to believe that as we hear and see each other more often and more easily, we will come to reject deliberate polarization and move toward understanding and respecting our diversity. And that starts with us, now.

Food For Fireworks

Ok, I’m done with the diatribe. Sorry. Let’s move on to something more palatable, like…food! Here’s my favorite seasonal salad, just in time for the family picnic. Ready?

Red, White and Blueberry

Bursting with blueberries, sweet onions, and exploding-in-your-mouth cherry bomb tomatoes, this refreshing salad partners well with almost anything. Serve it with Fireworks Dressing for a delightfully invigorating experience.

Red, White and Blueberry Salad

4 cups young salad greens
1 bunch red arugula, chopped
1 cup flat Italian parsley, chopped
1 cup basil, chopped
1 Walla-walla Sweet onion, chopped
1 cup extra sharp white cheddar cheese, finely diced
1 pint blueberries, stemmed
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes

In a serving bowl, toss greens and herbs gently. Top with cheese, blueberries, and tomatoes. Pass with Fireworks Salad Dressing. Serves 4-6.

Fireworks Dressing

Lively and spunky, this dressing is also great over fish or chicken. To modify the heat, use less exuberant quantities of the chipotle or green curry sauce.

Fireworks Salad Dressing

1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup cider or wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-3 teaspoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, pureed
OR 1-3 teaspoons Thai green curry sauce

Combine oil, vinegar and garlic in a covered jar and shake well to blend. Add pureed chipotles or green curry sauce to taste, starting with 1 teaspoon. To serve, drizzle over greens and toss gently. Makes about 1 cup.

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