Tempered Cuisine: On America's 230th birthday, I attended a reenactment of an 1865 Independence Day celebration at a living history restoration on Long Island. The picnic event was billed as sponsored by "The Ladies Temperance Society" and participants were directed to bring a brown bag lunch. Entertainment was of an earlier era with speeches and poems, fiddle music and brass bands.
To some culinary types, the brown bag lunch might have seemed a bit austere and the Ladies Temperance Society an odd organization to host what is a uniquely American feast day. Our Independence Day is characterized by communal indulgence in outdoor spreads of charred meat, cold beer and crisp summer salads.
But as I sat under the enormous shade tree in the heat of the afternoon observing the participants and festivities, my smoked turkey sandwich and Macintosh apple seemed to fit the time and place. The Americans of post-Civil War 1865 were agricultural families whose food was prepared with minimal fuss. Their cuisine was uncomplicated and straight from the farm. But, when shared with a diverse community that included farmers, musicians, children, laborers, veterans of war, and even ladies who choose not to drink, their simple food became a feast, a cause for celebration and a declaration of independence.
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