Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


It's hot. This is not news or a surprise. I do, after all, live in the Deep South and it is July. The last few weeks, I've been pondering something. Why do people feel led to eat outside on the Fourth of July? I've examined this with anyone I can draw into the conversation, which to be honest is only Ms. Classy and Dr. Effervescent. Ms. Classy loves to wear a subject out as well as I do and Dr. Effervescent is an anthropologist. You know how they love to ponder. Everybody else looks at me like I'm crazy when I try to make them speculate about this behavior, which I consider to be unbalanced.

This is what we've come up with: It's not because of making ice cream. I admit making ice cream with the old salt and ice method makes a mess, but try eating it outside. Pretty soon you've got liquid ice cream, which is what you started with in the first place. I pointed out to Ms. Classy that, these days, most people have those ice cream makers with the cylinders that you freeze. No mess. Ms. Classy said that you can buy ice cream. She should know. She's got nineteen-year-old twin boys and they can eat. She buys a lot of ice cream.

Dr. Effervescent thinks it's because somewhere along the way some man wanted to have a party on Independence Day, and his wife said, "Fine! But you're cooking. I cooked Christmas, Thanksgiving and on everybody's birthday. I'm not doing it." So the man cranked up the grill. That explains the cooking outside but not the eating. Grilled food can be taken inside where there is air conditioning, I know. I've done it. Anyway, lots of people eat outside even if they cooked inside or bought barbecue.

I guess people think they are supposed to have a picnic because it's the Fourth of July like they are supposed to have a Christmas tree. This I blame on the media. People on television and in magazines have picnics to celebrate this country's liberation from England--complete with red, white, and blue bunting. Everybody's supposed to fall in line. Well. I can almost promise you those people with that patriotic bunting, live where it's cooler and they are grabbing one of their few opportunities to be in the great out of doors for a holiday.

This is what I think. Here in the Deep South, we need to keep ourselves and our food inside in July. If we are going eat outside on a holiday, it should be Thanksgiving when it's seventy degrees, the trees are turning, and the bugs are dead. Then we should go on television and in magazines and demonstrate to the rest of the world that turkey is to be eaten outside.

Did you have picnic on the Fourth of July? If so, why?


  1. I agree - air conditioning adds to the enjoyment of food. Dripping sweat into your puddle of ice cream is not the way to add salt to your diet.

    I did not have a picnic on the Fourth. We have a lovely porch that overlooks a pool - inviting (false advertisement). We grilled and quickly brought the food indoors to enjoy it; sans bugs, humidity and dripping sweat. Air conditioning was invented by a Southern doctor - I think he knew how bad it was for digestion to eat in heat that rivals the temperature of the coals on the grill!

  2. Cheryl--I knew you were smart. I did not know who invented AC but I am not surprised!

  3. Wow! Impressive, Cheryl. ;)

    Picnics were started in Queen Victoria's time in England. Here's the history of picnics in America.

    "The tradition of picnics in America can be found in print as early as 1892 when Ella Eaton Kellogg wrote Science in the Kitchen, in it is a section with recipes called Picnic Dinners. 1879 when the people of Hancock, New Hampshire began what started as a family picnic in 1879 but has grown into a picnic that includes the whole town and anyone who has ever lived there! Today, invitations are sent out across the country to relatives and New Hampshire descendants to return for the statewide celebration. In 1899, New Hampshire Governor Frank Rollins made Old Home Day a state holiday."

    We visited my FIL in the hospital on the 4th and then ate lunch at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Bringing joy to family and experiencing history: Priceless.

  4. We ate our spread inside, with the AC and the DVDs, because we are hedonists.

    I feel compelled to tilt at a windmill. I know that AL as a whole is considered Deep South, because there's still TN and KY to the north of us. What does one call the cultural difference south of Montgomery, before one gets to the imported New Yawkness of the Florida peninsula? Where it's a major trek to bits of shopping civilization, gnats manifest as an entire season hopefully relieved by a passing friendly hurricane, and Decoration Day happens as early as one can see in the morning, because it's 90+ at 10 am?

    Compressor-created ice was first used as AC in this bit of the world, in Apalachicola of the 1840s, to relieve suffering from malaria in hospital. (It took a New Yorker to come up with the modern machine in 1902, and the first ones were up there, so it's not as if the ordinary person south of the Mason-Dixon got any relief until approaching mid-century.)

  5. I didn't think it was too hot at all this July 4th. Unlike it usually is in the Deep South in July. We did indeed eat outside, under shade trees and a big tent, with a huge fan blowing. The flies were a bother, but the temperature was nice.

    But if it'd been hot and humid to boot? No problem with the great indoors whatsoever. :)

  6. Hmm. I don't eat outside much, unless I'm hiking (but that's usually a quick snack).
    Picnics are for the fall...

    Sometimes we will have breakfast outside..but only in the early part of the day. After the heat invades, we pack up and flee to the AC

    I could just HUG the guy who invented AC...I still remember that first wall unit my parent bought--I remember freezing! (and in July that's great stuff!)

  7. Yes I did and two words that we know all too well - FUNNEL CAKE!

  8. Yeah, Dr. John Gorrie came up with the idea in 1849. There is a neat museum in Appalachicola and those docents will proudly tell you that air conditioning was his idea. He didn't have electricity (No one did) so he suspended ice buckets from the ceiling (cold air floats down). We don't care that Yankees had it first, we have it now. hehe

    In the Black Belt or the Sawgrass, depending on which part of the state you are talking about, they still have so many large farms and hunting preserves. Guess they don't like strip malls. And I hate those gnats!

  9. Because my parents have a house on a lake, and we can promptly throw ourselves in when we get hot.
    I remember my Southern Virginia grandparents making the old salt and ice ice cream back in the 70s and 80s when I was a kid. It was amazing - but the grownups ate theirs inside, while the kids sat in the carport, because we were messy.

  10. Kathy--I knew it! Picnics originated where it's cool. It always looks like so much fun in the Jane Austin movies. Thanks for the history lesson.

    Lynn--I admit, it was a little cooler on the Fourth. Though I didn't eat outside, I did spend some time on my porch drinking coffee. My friend was visiting from Arkansas and she smokes. Naturally, I sat with her because we don't get near enough face time. I have often wondered if she took up smoking because she likes to sit outside and people watch.

    Sarah--You would have a history lesson. You and Kathy should get together! There is certainly a cultural difference between north and south Alabama. Janis Owens (one of the greatest modern writers, in my opinion) calls it Cracker country--and only in the most complimentary manner. But really why wouldn't it be? Crackers are great--Ritz, Triscuit, water crackers.

    M.V. Yes. Let us praise AC.

    Cheryl--That reminds me of the fans blowing on bags of ice at football games. That thought just makes me happy.

    Gwen--I do not believe you were messy. Your cousins might have been and you got lumped in with them but there is no way you dripped on your tyke sized Yves Saint Laurent rompers and Prada sandals.

  11. I remember one morning in Texas when my brother and I woke up, we were covered in mosquito bites. Apparently, there were holes in our window screens and we didn't have air conditioning. My mom was horrified and we had red hives all over our faces. LOL!

    The good ol' days...

  12. I love this blog. You can find the most interesting info here. :-D

    We are not picnic people. Hubby says why suffer when there is a perfectly nice house to sit in to have a meal. Besides, I'd rather not get carpel tunnel from waving away bugs. I do sit outside next to the pool in the early mornings with my coffee and in the late afternoon having a nice cool one; but no food. Apparently our bugs don't like Maxwell House or Bud Light cos they don't seem to bother me then. Or maybe they're just coffee and beer snobs. :-D

  13. Kathy--And I know the mosquitoes in Texas are bound to be be bigger.

    Sherry--To think that an insect with such a short life span would have the audacity to be a snob!

  14. You are are so smart and funny!!

  15. As one who is not fond of eating outside in the first place, I am even less inclined to like the leftover food that is served outside, and then brought inside and wrapped up and re-served the next day.

    I would like to share this discussion face to face with Dr. Effervescent and Panster! The points of view on this blog indicate more discussion can be taken place! Ms. Classy

  16. Ha! I hate eating outside too! I always dread picnics! I hate sitting on the ground. It's so uncomfortable, and the bugs gross me out! There's always at least one buzzing over your food. Ugh!

    My kids did ask to eat outside on the little tables at Sonic yesterday. My oldest gets cold wherever we go, and I do too, because most restaurants and businesses in the South crank up the air conditioners beyond refrigerator levels. So she was ready to thaw out! I said okay, we could eat outside, but soon regretted it, as a fly hovered over my food! YUCK!