Fourth of July Memories and Boston Baked Beans
Musing about July 4, John Adams wrote to Abigail, "I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other..."
I grew up beyond the continent and across the Pacific in Hawaii – a place that John Adams in his wildest dreams wouldn’t have imagined would one day join the original 13 colonies. But his vision resonated with us, too. Every year, we went to parades, celebrated with family barbecues and watched fireworks explode over Hilo Bay.
The only difference between our Fourth and those on the other side of the Pacific was the food; we barbecued teriyaki beef and ate rice balls using throwaway chopsticks.
So you can imagine what an awesome Independence Day it was for a history buff like me, to find myself spending a summer at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Baked beans and hot dogs in funny buns (the New England top-split, bready kind), celebrated in the heart of the American Revolution.
We’ve had a lot of memorable Fourth of July picnics since. We were in New York City for the Bicentennial – watching the magnificent tall ships sail in then going down to Battery Park for breathtaking fireworks. And we spent many a breezy day at Crissy Field in the Presidio in San Francisco, picnicking with our children while bundled up in jackets (it’s cold in the summer), waiting for dark and the drama: would fireworks burst forth gloriously over the Golden Gate Bridge this year or would be cheated with mere soft specks of muted color, visibility obscured by fog?
To get into the Fourth of July spirit, why not whip up some authentic baked beans for your barbecue? Here’s an edited authentic version from the historic Durgin Park restaurant in Boston. It yields enough to feed George Washington’s Continental Army. Make the whole batch and freeze leftovers in family-size portions. You need to plan ahead to make this recipe, but the actual prep takes minutes.
Durgin Park’s Boston Baked Beans: Soak 2 pounds dry beans (California Pea beans preferred or York State beans) overnight. In the morning, boil 10 minutes with 1 teaspoon baking soda. Drain and rinse beans. Cut 1 pound salt pork in ½-inch squares. Put half the pork on the bottom of a 2-quart bean pot (I use a heavy casserole) with 1 whole medium onion. Add beans and top with the rest of the pork. Combine 8 tablespoons sugar, 2/3 cup molasses, 2 teaspoons dry mustard, 4 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and mix with hot water (youou want just enough water to just cover the beans); pour mixture over beans. Cover and bake 300F for 6 hours. Watch and add just enough water to keep beans covered. Makes 10 full portions.
Have a great Fourth!