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Collective July 4th Barbecues

Collective Beef Barbecue Event in The Midwest Circa 1940s

Here’s traveler John James (1785 –1851) description of a 19th century July 4th country barbecue near Louisville, Kentucky. The source shows that July 4th represented one of those special occasions when just about every member of a rural society had access to good food in abundance which reminds me of those lean times during graduate school, in which I ate well. An invitation to a July 4th barbecue in Syracuse or Washington, D. C. for me in the 1990s meant a reprieve from my affordable but often no frills eating regime. James writes, “The free, single-hearted Kentuckian, bold, erect, and proud of his Virginian descent, had arranged for the whole neighborhood to celebrate Independence Day with one consent. No personal invitation was required where everyone was welcomed by his neighbor, and from the governor to the guider of the plough all met with light hearts and merry faces . . . . For a whole week or more, many servants and some masters had been engaged in clearing an area. . . . Now the wagons were seen slowly moving along under their load of provisions, which had been prepared for the common benefit.” James goes on to describe the food and beverage that members of this rural community contributed toward this collective July 4th barbecue. “Each denizen [citizen] had freely given his ox, his ham, his venison, his turkeys, and other fowls. Here were to be seen flagons [jugs] of every beverage used in the country . . . the melons of all sorts, peaches, plums, and pears, would have sufficed to stock a market.” Fresh colorful sweet fruit, that’s one of the things I craved the most in grad school during summer months.  Try grilling some fresh fruit this year in addition to the traditional items on your barbecue menu.

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