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Volume 39 Issue 9 • July 2-8, 2009
now in our 39th season

Big Parade Food

by Jenn Farmer
Sous Chef at Bartlett's Farm

I cannot believe it is July already!  As a child this was probably my favorite month of the year.  My grandparents were very involved in all community events and became organizers of the 4th of July parade.  They had a garage full of street games like the softball toss, dart toss, and the duck pluck.  The best was the boxes of candy and prizes for the game winners.  It was great fun opening the boxes, even though the contents were not mine.  My grandparents let me help them organize everything for the big day.  I loved the surprise of opening a box of brightly colored, plastic parachute guys, and then a box filled with little bracelets, or bubble gum pieces.  The best part was helping grandpa set up the games on the big day.  I would wake up at some excruciatingly early hour so filled with excitement (sorry Mom) that I was spinning in circles.  “Is it time to go yet?”  I would inevitably say about fifty times before my mother lost her patience.  She would then call my grandparents begging them to come pick me up. 

They would usually take me first to the fireman’s pancake breakfast and fundraiser.  It was always absolutely packed.  Lines of people went down the block, and for good reason, the food was fantastic!  After that we set up the booths with the games and tickets.  Soon after was the actual parade.  Car collectors would bring out their beauties.  Kids would decorate and ride their bikes, people would ride their horses, and the high school band would march and play.  Then the fire trucks were loaded up with candy and kids. It was so much excitement, all the colors, bright lights, and candy.  Sometimes my grandpa would drive his friend’s old model A or model T car in the parade, and I usually got to ride along.  It was so much fun, and incredibly memorable.

Just as the streets were cleared the real fun began.  There was always a cake walk (it is like musical chairs but the prize is cake), and pie-eating contests.  Then all the food vendors began to peddle their wares.  Most of the food was homemade by the farm wives who belonged to this club or that club or a church group.  They cooked to raise money for their causes, and needless to say the food was so fantastic!  Barbequed pork, beef brisket, chicken, smoky hot dogs, and hamburgers filled the outdoor grills.  As wonderful as the meat was, my favorites were always the sides.  I would seek out the molasses baked beans, coleslaws, homemade rolls, vinegary potato salads, macaroni salads, broccoli, and cauliflower slaws.  I wanted the homemade noodles  and deviled eggs.  This is still how I eat, who cares about the entrée I want the other stuff, the stuff that makes the entrée taste so good! 

I am still on a quest for the best potato salad.  I love a great potato salad, with perfectly cooked potatoes, salt, pepper, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, celery, onion, and parsley.  I believe that making good potato salad can be a real art form.  The potato must be cooked fully, but not mushy.  I also believe that the potatoes must be seasoned with salt, pepper, and vinegar before they cool, then the rest of the ingredients after the potatoes are cooled.  Over mixing the ingredients can also be disastrous to good salad, so I always mix the mayo, mustard, diced celery, onion, and parsley together to make a dressing, before folding it into the potatoes.  As much as I love traditional potato salad there is one that comes in at a close second for me, it is fresh herb pesto potato salad.  The fresh herbs bring out the fresh and earthy flavors of potatoes, the flavor combination works very well.  This style of potato salad goes well with heavier dishes like beef, but can be light enough to serve with fish.  The following is my chimichurri potato salad recipe.  Chimichurri is a fresh sauce made from cilantro; it is popular in South American cuisine.

Chimichurri Potato Salad

  • 2 pounds boiling potatoes (preferably yellow-fleshed), quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh cilantro
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and Pepper

In a steamer set over boiling water, steam the potatoes, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are just tender, transfer them to a bowl, and let them cool to room temperature.  Meanwhile, place the fresh herbs in the blender with the garlic, and pulse.  Add olive oil and red wine vinegar slowly to blender, adjust speed and blend until it is fairly smooth.  Add seasoning, and blend again for a minute.  Toss with the room temperature potatoes.  Taste and season again if necessary.  The garlic gives this recipe a little spicy heat.  If it is too spicy for you, add a little mayonnaise or sour cream to tame the heat.

As much as I love side dishes I love sweets.  I love the lemon bars, fresh fruit pies, cream pies, and homemade lemonade.  One July fourth vendor always made real Sarsaparilla, what a huge treat.  If you have never had sarsaparilla, it kind of tastes like root beer, in fact it is where the root beer originated.   The ladies that made it said it came from the root of a local plant.  They dried the root and make an extract from it.  They then added the sweetest, icy cold well water (they said it was more authentic than the carbonated water version), and a little sugar.  They kept it cold in big, old earthenware crocks.  I sought it out every year.  I haven’t tasted it in over twenty years, but it was such a unique flavor and very refreshing, and I still have cravings for it today.

Since Sarsaparilla is difficult to find, I have had to resort to finding new favorite summertime beverages.  Lemonade works for me.  I love it because it is great on its own, but add some other fresh fruit, or even fresh herbs like mint or basil, and it can be dynamite!  I have included a recipe for blackberry lemonade.   It reminds me of picking berries in the woods for friends, hoping I could get enough for a pie or two.  It also reminds me of the sweetness of summer.  I hope it brings you good memories.

Blackberry Lemonade

  • about 6 lemons
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup picked-over fresh blackberries
  • Zest 4 lemons and squeeze enough juice from these, and the remaining 2 lemons to measure 1 cup.

In a saucepan boil 2 cups water with sugar, stirring, until sugar is dissolved.  Add zest, lemon juice, and remaining 2 cups water and cool.  In a food processor or blender purée blackberries and stir into lemonade.  Pour blackberry lemonade through a sieve into a pitcher or other container and chill.  Chill lemonade, covered, at least until cold. 

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