Today is a glorious day in American History. I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who once said, “Let them eat delicious grilled meats and ignite small rockets for the enjoyment of small children!”, or something to that effect. Don’t quote me on it. Either way, I have always had fond memories of the Fourth. Growing up, it meant spending the day at my Great Grandma Hoekie’s cottage on Barlow Lake. My dad would start the day by lighting his cannon, which was miniature, but still loud enough to wake all of the citizens of Barlow Lake.
We would eat her Ice Box Cookies in the morning with Country Time Lemonade made with the cottage’s horrible well water (water that we would in later years, all out reject, as something that was only suitable to wash dishes and flush toilets). Either way, we enjoyed it. Her cookies would melt in our mouths. They were the perfect thinness. I will provide the simple to make, but hard to perfect recipe here:
1 1/2 C. Soft Butter ( I use salted, because that is what I spread on toast (if you want to use unsalted just add a touch more salt later))
1 1/2 C. Sugar
1 t. Vanilla
3 C. Flour
1 t. Baking Soda
Salt To Taste (maybe 1/2 t. depending)
And that is it. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt a bit before you throw it into the sugar-butter and mix until just composed. Then form it into a log on parchment and roll it up so it is a nice smooth log the length of the parchment. Refrigerate it wrapped in plastic too (so it doesn’t taste like fridge) for an hour or so or until it is firm all the way through. Then slice disks from the log about the thickness of courogated cardboard. Use a thin sharp knife, because it tends to stick if you use a really thick knife. Now bake them at 350 degrees until you start to see a tiny bit of golden brown in a few spots. Let them cool and prepare to F-ing enjoy. At Thanksgiving I put a little Pumpkin Pie Spice in them for festiveness. I have also replaced the Vanilla extract with Maple extract before and that was awesome. One other time, I used fancy Turbinado for half of the cup of sugar for a speckly effect. This recipe is her basic one ( I think I added salt to it), but I don’t think she will mind up there, she is just happy that the family got together again for the Fourth. She lived to the ripe old age of 100 by the way.
After we ate cookies and lemonade, we would all decorate the pontoon boat and participate in the Boat Parade. As kids it was awesome, we got to dress up like Lady Liberty or during Operation Desert Storm, we got to dress up like soldiers, but as we got older it was more of an obligation. We did it to make Grandma Hoekie happy. Later that day, everyone would grill hotdogs and we would eat copious ammounts of mayonase based salads and drink Coca-Cola. Then there would be swimming and drying off, then more swimming. When it started to get dark, my Dad would bring out bags of Indiana fireworks…the good ones, and we would run around with sparklers while he lit them off. Then we would load up on the pontoon on the verge of max capacity, then we would slowly putt over to the YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin, where they would have a fireworks display. Grandma Hoekie would always have extra blankets for us, and ALWAYS Hershey’s miniature candy bars to pass out to everyone. I coveted the Mr. Goodbars. These are some of the fondest memories of my life, and I am there in spirit today, as I am sure she is as well.
As for today, I will be barbequeing like the good old days, hot dogs and hamburgers, but instead, with a Mexican twist and here in Chicago. We are planning on making Chorizo burgers (just a touch mixed in with the ground beef) with guacamole, and hotdogs with pico de gallo. We also might make some aguachiles, which is basically like a shrimp ceviche with cucumbers and chile manzana that you eat on tostadas. If we make it I will be sure to privide instructions, as it is always amazing. Happy Fourth folks.