Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in early July 1976 in Philadelphia, visiting my mother’s family, including her mother, who had gone from the horse-and-carriage days to men on the moon in her single lifetime. We visited Independence Hall and I touched the Liberty Bell.

On the third of July, Uncle Red held a cookout in his and Aunt Dolores’ back yard, then six of us decided we wanted to see a fireworks display down at the waterfront. It was kind of a last-minute decision, and when we got there, no parking place was to be found. A group of cars was fruitlessly circling around in a parking lot, when all the drivers simultaneously got the same idea: No one was going to want to leave until after the fireworks, so why not just leave the cars where they were?

The fireworks were to be set off out on a breakwater. This was in the days when individual fireworks were set off by hand instead of by computer, and someone dropped the flare, and I’m not sure how, but it set off what seemed like dozens of big skyrockets that weren’t in the holders that aim them at the sky. Instead they came hissing across the water right at us. Hundreds of people ran screaming amid sparks and explosions. Then, about the time the first of us reached the street, the bombardment stopped. Big black flakes of ash fell like unholy snow. We looked around. No one had been struck by a firework or set on fire by the sparks; they had all gone flying over our heads. Somebody started to laugh and then we all laughed and cheered, and went back to our places. The rest of the show, though it featured bigger and better fireworks than I had ever seen, seemed anti-climactic. That remains my favorite memory of fireworks.

This recipe for bean salad was taught to my mother, then a young bride, by my father’s oldest cousin, whom we all called aunt. I only make it on very special occasions.


2 cans of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
4 or 5 sweet pickles, the little kind called gherkins, sliced
3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced or chopped very coarsely
1 medium sweet onion, chopped

Mix the ingredients in a bowl, then make the sauce:

One-fourth cup of cider vinegar
One-half cup sugar
One cup sour cream

Blend the sauce thoroughly and pour over the bean mix. You might wish to reserve one of the eggs, slice it thinly and lay the slices on top of the salad.

Best made in advance -- even the night before -- and stored in the refrigerator.



Linda O. Johnston said...

Wow, Monica--what a wild way to spend the 200th birthday of the USA!

Betty Hechtman said...

It's funny how the snafus are what make things memorable. A story about how beautiful the fireworks were would have been so ho-hum. But one where the fireworks were aimed at you and sent people running. Now that's exciting.