‘Birds of Bad Moral Character,’ and Other Food-ish Facts for the Fourth of July

Our_National_Birds1). Birds of bad moral character.  You know how the bald eagle is the US’s national bird, and the turkey is our most delicious iconic main dish at the Thanksgiving feast?

Well, Benjamin Franklin had initially proposed the turkey as our national bird, but his proposal was overruled by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who preferred the bald eagle. Benjamin Franklin wrote of his displeasure that the bald eagle had been chosen as the symbol for the nation”

“He is a Bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly,” he wrote. “You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk.”

(story continues after the break)

beautiful_Soup2). Soup of the evening. The signers of the Declaration of Independence ate very different food from the ones we serve on Independence Day. Legend has it that John Adams (signer of the Declaration, and second President of the US) ate a July 4, 1776, celebratory meal of turtle soup, New England poached salmon with egg sauce, green peas, and boiled new potatoes. Dessert was Apple Pandowdy. (Which makes your eyes light up, and your tummy says “howdy,” according to our grandma.)

3). “Solemnized with pomp and parade.” John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, (presumably after that big heavy turtle soup dinner) about the solemn significance of the signing of the Declaration in July 1776: “[This day] will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America… celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, … solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

dad_vintage_barbecue4). Fewer guns, bells, and bonfires; more beer, brats, and burgers. Today you can find some “pomp and parade,” sometimes, on Independence Day (especially if it’s a summertime in a year leading up to an Iowa Presidential Caucus the following January). But solemn? Not so much. “Guns, bells, and bonfires”? Mostly not legal within the city limits.

In place of turtle soup and Adams’ vision of a “day of deliverance,” a popular modern day observance of Independence day is the casual family-and-friends outdoor cookout. How popular? The Fourth of July is the most popular holiday of the year for grilling out (68 percent), followed by Memorial Day (52 percent) and Labor Day (51 percent). (According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, 2013)

Nathans-hotdog-eating-contest5). We are the champions, my friend. Every July 4 sees the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York.  The winner eats the most hot dogs and buns within 10 minutes to win prize money and the Mustard Belt.  Eight-time champion Joey Chestnut of San Jose, California holds the world record for eating 69 hot dogs. In ten minutes. That’s hot dogs – with buns.

Sixty-nine hot dogs (plus buns) is a lot of hot dogs. But it is estimated that, when we all join forces, Americans will eat 150 million hot dogs and consume 700 million pounds of chicken on July 4. [Plus, bonus fun fact: there’s a greater than 1 in 4 chance that your hot dog contains pork grown right here in Iowa (according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service).]

star-spangled-banner6). In heaven, there is no beer. But apparently there is wine. The tune of the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was originally that of an English drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven.”

Obviously, the words of our national anthem have nothing to do with consumption of alcohol*, but the “melody that Francis Key had in mind when he wrote those words did originate decades earlier as the melody for a song praise of wine.”

So raise your glass, and toast to “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

Happy Independence Day, 2015!

National birds illustration credit

*(“o thus be it e’er / when freemen shall stand / between their lov’d homes / and the war’s desolation” the fourth verse – not too light-hearted and beer-mug-raising)