Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Planning for the Glorious Fourth

By: Jaymie Leighton (with a minor intrusion from her sister, Rebecca Leighton Burke, of RLB China Matching Service)
From: A Deadly Grind – Book 1 of the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series – May 2012
Author: Victoria Hamilton

Living in a border town is fun. You really get the benefit of another culture’s traditions. I know as Americans we often think that Canadians are indistinguishable from us, but that’s not quite true. There are more and subtler differences between us than their tendency to say ‘eh’ at the end of sentences and apologize a lot. But you really get a good look at it on July First (their Canada Day) and our Glorious Fourth.

What are the differences? Well, for better or worse, they seem to be more low key about celebrating their nation’s birth. I’ve often wondered why, but a Canadian friend once told me it reflects the differences in national birth. We had to fight for our independence, and theirs was more or less reached by negotiation and conciliation. And they kept the Queen as their head of state… kind of. I’ll admit, I don’t really understand their political system. They do fireworks and picnics, though, and you’ll see lots of red and white, but it’s just a more muted celebration.

My town, Queensville, Michigan, is tied to the Canadian equivalent town (Johnsonville, Ontario) across the St. Clair River, by almost two hundred years of tradition. Heartbreak Island, in the middle of the river, was divided between our country and theirs after the War of 1812 by a rare agreement that came with no bloodshed and no acrimony. We've always had to get along with our neighbors. Then, on July first, 1867, when Canada celebrated its own coming of age by officially becoming a country, our town took on a new name in honor of Queen Victoria, just as their town took on their new name in honor of our President Andrew Johnson. And we’ve been celebrating together every since.

But in different ways. In the US, we do things big! The fourth of July is my favorite holiday. (Of course, when Thanksgiving comes, I’ll be saying that about it, and when Christmas comes… you get my drift.)

But I do love me some red, white and blue vintage kitchenwares and linens! Part of the fun of any occasion, for me, is planning ahead what food I’m going to serve, and what vintage dinnerware I’m going to serve it on. And on that topic, instead of buying up stars and stripes new stuff, why not celebrate with vintage buys? The key, to me, is to not interpret the red, white and blue patriotic color theme too literally. I pull out some of the red Christmas linens (as long as they don’t have poinsettias on them!) and pair them with white dishes and vintage cobalt blue drinking glasses.

Becca adds: My sister won’t say it, but you could go all out, if you’re having an ‘at home sit down meal’ for the Glorious Fourth. In that case, you could collect some of the gorgeous patriotic-themed dinnerware, like Pickard’s ‘Palace Royale Ivory - Eagle Crest’, which is white, with a royal blue and gold rim and a gold American eagle emblazoned on it, or Lenox’s ‘Independence’, which features, again, a blue and gold rim, but with stars etched in the gold. Gorgeous!

Jaymie continues: … but not cheap. If you want to go new and don’t have a boatload of money, how about rustic patriotic themed enamelware, or less expensive stoneware? Anyway, I am of the opinion that what you serve ON the plates is more important than the plates themselves. I do the d├ęcor stuff for myself, because trust me, people – especially men – won’t notice what the dishes look like.

Now, talking about food, and getting back to my initial talk about Canadian and American similarities and differences, I think when it comes to our national holidays, we have more of the former than the latter. In Johnsonville, on July First, the townspeople gather in Friendly Neighbour Park, along the river, picnic, and then have fireworks later. In Queensville, on July Fourth, almost everyone in town will gather by the river for the annual picnic in Boardwalk Park, and the sailboat race from Heartbreak Island down around Fawn Island and back again. Then dinner (usually fried chicken or barbecued ribs, potato salad, coleslaw, and red, white and blue cupcakes) and once the sun is down, fireworks set off from the marina on Heartbreak Island.

I can’t wait!

So… what are your traditions? How far ahead do you plan your Glorious Fourth picnic, and what do you serve? Is it hot dogs and ice cream for you, or do you have some ethnic dishes that reflect the melting pot of America? I will admit I have brought hummus and pita chips before, and once tried a taco salad that almost everyone loved! Have you ever experimented?

Blog: Vintage Kitchen Mysteries – http://vintagekitchenmysteries.blogspot.com
Twitter: @MysteryVictoria


  1. Around the beginning of July, I can sometimes find flowers that resemble fireworks - red bee balm, blue bachelor buttons, and white gooseneck loosestrife. Of course, with stems and leaves, the bouquet is red, white, blue, and *green.* But it's very cheerful.

  2. Janet, I love that idea! Thanks... I'll just steal that... LOL. Funny; I was just thinking of planting bee balm.

  3. Since my partner will be working that day (mega bucks in holiday pay), I'll be here at my computer, hoping that the sound reduction qualities of my windows will keep the noise to a minimum.

  4. The last several years my husband and I have spent the 4th in the northwoods of Wisconsin in a rickety cabin at a lake lost among towering pines. We pack in with his family. It's exhausting and fun.

    This year, I'm staying home to finish up with some work that needs my attention. Jim will be going alone. Boo hoo!

    There's no fireworks on the island where I live in steamy SC. But that doesn't stop people from setting them off. I'll watch the display from the window and hope no one shoots any toward the house. LOL! (One year the lawn caught fire!)

  5. The lawn, on fire?? How frightening, Dorothy. I do love fireworks, but not the fallout.

  6. I'm a July baby (born on the 8th), so I have a natural affinity for Summer and the 4th. I love Americana things as well, and am a patriot. I like to do what you do in a way. Get out my red, white and blue things, like my 4th of July nutcracker.