Thursday, July 7, 2011

4th of July

I realized that in the six summers we've now lived in Burbank, we've never been in town for the 4th of July. Apparently, we've always used the holiday and the long weekend as an excuse to get away, a chance to join in the celebrations of our hometowns and our childhoods.

The 4th has always been my favorite non-winter holiday to celebrate; I think because it's an excuse to squeeze everything I love about summer and celebrating into one day. Ideally, my Independence Day would be spent playing in the pool, eating delicious summer foods (sandwiches! chips!) and sipping refreshing summer beverages (lemonade! beer!), followed by a nap either in the sun or a darkened room with icy air conditioning (still wearing swimsuits). I'd wake in time for some food from the grill (burgers! BBQ!) and then head to a public place to join the rest of the town for a parade and fireworks. There would be music - the patriotic sort from the marching bands in the parade, and classic hits from the local radio station - there would be more food (kettle corn! pie! ice cream!), more drinks (illicit margaritas in a venue approved cooler!), frisbee, soccer, and handstands.

I would still be wearing my swimsuit under my clothes and when the sunlight faded, I'd put on a zip-up and wonder why I didn't bring a warmer sweater, or pants, or more blankets. The fireworks would be glorious, the patriotic soundtrack would be loud and rousing. I would huddle with the people I love most under the warmest blanket we brought and find some silly thing to giggle about all through the show until the finale sets the sky ablaze. In the darkness afterward, we would see the sparkly afterimage of fireworks until our eyes adjust to the weak light of ordinary life. We would pack up our blankets, our frisbees, our coolers and chairs. We'd trudge home or to the car and try to hold it together through the evacuating crowds and traffic until we could collapse into bed and succumb to an exhausted sleep punctuated with fiery screams of bottle rockets and staccato bursts of firecrackers in the streets all over the city. 

Alice, with her dad, grandpa and great-grandpa last 4th of July. She's wearing a very patriotic dress.
Last July 4th, Alice was six weeks old. We skipped the public venue and stayed on Jon's parents balcony. We could see their town's pyrotechnics from the pier just ahead, and the shows of three or four other cities up the coast to the North. If we'd thought to arrange our own patriotic playlist, it would have been utterly flawless. I was just happy to see fireworks, and that Alice didn't cry, and that we didn't have to fight any crowds afterwards.

This year, since we'd driven to both of our hometowns within the last month, and since the holiday was on a weeknight, we opted to stay in town. And because we also opted to not deal with any crowds or traffic, by default, we opted to stay home. We were all set for an uneventful three-day weekend, but then things got a little more interesting.

My friend is moving away soon, so we're trying to do all the things we can't do together over the internet. We've been talking about it forever and decided it was finally time she taught us how to make pasta.  So on Sunday, my dear friend brought over her pasta rollers and we celebrated our freedom to cook delicious food from other cultures.

Jon learned to mix pasta dough the old fashioned way. He totally broke the dam.

The Spaghetti makes pasta, his apron is totally appropriate on many levels.

We rolled the dough out to the perfect thickness, filled and cut ravioli, and sliced long strands of fettucine.

I roasted some fat beefsteak tomatoes from our CSA box and snuck them into Marcella Hazan's Famous Four Ingredient Tomato Sauce, which topped our fettucine. We made goat cheese and arugula ravioli, and we feasted. It was amazing. I can't remember ever being so full from a meal I cooked, and I made Thanksgiving last year.

Sauces stirred and simmered, fresh pasta cooking in mere minutes.
Jon and I were pretty smitten with the whole process. It's certainly not a quick meal, nor is it as cost-effective as making your own bread, but it is highly enjoyable and super delicious. I think it would be a great way to involve kids in the kitchen, I can definitely see it becoming a fun way for the whole family to make a special meal.

We made the dough included in the ravioli recipe and were really impressed. Our fearless leader thought the dough was much more pliable than the recipe she usually used, we were able to stretch and fill the ravioli without any cracking or shrinking. If I made the filling again though, I would use the same amount of goat cheese, but more ricotta, and much less arugula. I think 1/4 lb of arugula would be perfect, with a 1/2 lb of spinach, and no fresh greens on top. The bitter, peppery bite of the arugula really overpowered the mellow goat cheese and subtle butter/pine nut sauce. I still ate as much as I could, though, and the texture of the cooked ravioli was perfect.
A finished plate. Gorgeous.

six-year-old chianti, straight from Firenze.
We finished off the meal - and three bottles of wine, including a chianti as old as our marriage - with a chocolate peanut butter souffle. It was divine, especially because it came lovingly premixed and just needed to be assembled. All I had to do was provide the oven! We garnished with strawberries, blueberries, and vanilla ice cream, because we had to at least acknowledge the 4th!

I went to bed feeling like I would never be hungry again. Alas, on Monday, I was forced to eat leftover pancake batter before it went bad and to cook various meals for the week. I basically spent all day cooking again and it wasn't until late afternoon that I was hungry enough to get excited about the leftover souffles. 

In the morning, I took a break from cooking and Jon took a break from his freelance job to sit poolside with Alice. The summer heat has finally arrived and we decided it was time to break out the baby pool we got Alice for her birthday. 
She didn't understand the directions. But look at that belly!!

splish splish splash.

The rest of the holiday was filled with more cooking - cold noodle salad, chili, baby food, zucchini bread - and then finally, burgers and corn on the cob for dinner. We streamed the live broadcast of the Boston Pops holiday concert, including a weird rendition of "Go The Distance," from Disney's Hercules, before we turned on Resevoir Dogs for dinner. We were all set to tuck in for the night when we heard distant booming and found that we could see a bit of the show from the Starlight Bowl. We watched the tops of those fireworks from behind our blinds and between the branches of our pine tree until we couldn't stay awake any more. I was happy that once we were all in bed, no one was awakened by amateur pyrotechnics.

Next year, maybe we can show Alice a proper and complete Independence Day celebration. But the 4th is a Tuesday, so we'll see!


  1. This might be the cutest thing I've ever seen. I LOVE the ladybug swimsuit.

  2. By the way, I read this post a couple weeks ago, and meant to comment on how wonderfully you describe the 4ths of our childhood. That's some of the best writing I've seen of yours. I don't think you could have brought the time, place and feeling back more vividly. Made me really miss it! By the way, did you hear they canceled the fireworks in Livermore this year..?! Really sad.

  3. Thanks for the compliment! I did NOT hear they canceled the fireworks! That is terribly sad. Do you know why?? I'm glad we didn't plan to go up there for it, I would have been devastated.


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