In the very early, fledgling days of our country, Fourth of July celebrations often included public readings of the Declaration of Independence. At one such gathering in New York, the crowd reportedly tore down a statue of King George III of England to repurpose the metal as bullets (ostensibly, I can only assume, to shoot at the British…). They would also fire muskets, and tear down and destroy any flags or emblems remotely British.

These were spirited events, and it was customary to drink 13 toasts, representing the 13 colonies.  By the late 1700s, these celebrations included parades, fireworks and feasting, always with two key components: the roasting of mass quantities of poultry and meat, and a grand collection of desserts. Here’s an account of the preparations for one such event in Smithfield, VA, in 1855:

Tuesday was a great “preparation day” in Smithfield, for the Democratic jubilee and banner presentation was to take place on Wednesday. Chickens and ducks were decapitated by the hundred; fat pigs, lambs and calves were slaughtered by the dozen; and a number of busy cooks were engaged in preparing immense bacon hams, and large joints and sides of fresh meat, as well as untold quantities of pies, puddings and cakes for the long tables that were spread for the numerous guests expected from Norfolk, Portsmouth and elsewhere on the glorious Fourth.

May your celebrations this Fourth of July resonate with the history, strength and freedom of this great nation, suffused with a diversity of satisfying snacks and sumptuous baked goods.

After all, while the barbecued burger is essential, it’s nothing without just the right bun. And a dip without a chip is like a minuteman without his musket.


Resource: “The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink,” Andrew F. Smith, editor (Oxford University Press, New York, 2007)

Photo: Library of Congress