No July 4 celebration is complete without a cold, fresh slice of watermelon to wash down those hot dogs, hamburgers and tater chips. I’d like to think it’s the way the Founding Fathers would have wanted it.
Far be it for me, though, to make sport of the Declaration of Independence or demean in any way its 56 signers, who dedicated their lives, fortunes and honor by signing that sacred document.
It is sad the only part of the Declaration that many Americans remember is the “unalienable” (God-given) right to the “pursuit of happiness.” Few ever read the document to know its signers appealed to the “supreme Judge of the world” for the “rectitude” of their intentions to declare our freedom from Great Britain.
Some might even think that when the signers left their signatures on the declaration (which they didn’t really do until Aug. 2, 1776), they celebrated with a cookout and fireworks. After our liberty was won, I know they celebrated much the way we do today, only they still remembered what they were celebrating — liberty. Given the risks they were taking, I suspect their celebration 237 years ago was a quiet affair.
Still, if there was a cookout July 4, 1776, it would only make sense that each of the 13 rebel British colonies contributed something to the festivities, just as they each contributed to the freedom they won by defeating what then was the most powerful military force in the world.
Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and both Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., still belonged to Native Americans back then, so North Carolina would have been the one to provide the barbecue. Maryland might have provided crab cakes; Virginia might have provided hams; the New England states likely brought clam chowder and lobster; South Carolina fried up some chicken and okra; Pennsylvania, of course, baked Dutch apple pie; New Jersey piled fresh meats and cheeses on deli sandwiches; and New York whipped up pizza.
It’s easy for me to imagine that Georgia’s signers of the Declaration of Independence — George Walton, Lyman Hall and Button Gwinnett — would have contributed watermelons from Cordele, the watermelon capital of the world.
According to the Travel Channel’s “Hamburger Paradise,” the first burgers were made in New Haven, Conn., but not for another 120 years. Ditto for hot dogs. If there was a celebration, though, I feel confident that watermelons were a part of it.
Watermelons, honeydew melons and cantaloupe are a summertime treat that peak July 4. I love all three. In fact, I’ll eat one of the smaller cannonball melons — I call them sugar babies — all by myself, usually right after mowing the lawn. Melons are a quick, delicious way to rehydrate.
According to GeorgiaGrown.com, there are about 300 varieties of watermelons, which are broken down into five categories: seeded, seedless, mini-melons, yellow and orange. My preference is seeded heirloom melons. Unless I’m participating in a watermelon-seed-spitting contest, I swallow the seeds with the juicy red pulp.
GeorgiaGrown.com notes that Georgia is among the top five melon-producing states. The website says watermelon production is a $98 million-a-year industry in Georgia. I say any melon is a good melon, but I prefer mine to be as local as possible.
Watermelons are 92 percent water, but the other 8 percent is packed with vitamins A, B6 and C as well as nutrients that promote healthy hearts and immune systems while preventing type 2 diabetes.
As good as they are for me, I confess, I eat them because they taste so good. Fruit is a healthy dessert anyway, and watermelons are the perfect act to follow grilled hotdogs and hamburgers.
This year, when I celebrate my country’s birthday, I will — as always — enjoy a large slice of watermelon. And when I do, I’ll thank our Founding Fathers for the document that they gave us that reminds all generations that certain rights are God-given, and governments and governors have no authority to deny or alter them.