It’s a rainy July 4th today in New York city. I’m not even sure that the fireworks will take place. But it doesn’t matter. In many other places in the U.S., from big cities to small towns, people are grilling hot dogs, drinking beer, and watching fireworks displays. There are some in this country that find this type of celebration for the country’s independence as crass and vulgar. They make fun of it in blog posts and op-eds. But I don’t think you can truly appreciate the beauty of the American tradition of July 4th celebrations unless you grew up somewhere else, in one of the many countries that celebrate their independence days with military parades and brutal war commemorations.
I grew up in such a country. Independence day was never a day for celebrations, picnics, and fireworks, even though it was always in the spring, when the green fields are resplendent with red poppies and the weather is mild. Instead, there was always a military parade, the most important topic of conversation being what types of missiles were displayed and whether the new tanks that had been rumored to have been purchased would be shown. The point was always the celebration of vanquishing one’s enemy, as it is for pretty much all military parades.
Contrast that with July 4th fireworks displays and gatherings with friends and family where people eat and drink and celebrate what they have, what their free country allows them to enjoy, not who they killed in bloody battles centuries ago. Call me naive but I think that this is how independence days should be celebrated everywhere. After all, isn’t that what independence wars are fought for? Not so that those wars are commemorated in perpetuity by reminding the world that they can be refought with better, newer weapons. But so that future generations can be free to gather together and enjoy a juicy burger, a cold beer, and a spectacle of colorful lights in the sky.
Black Sesame Carrot Cake – Adapted from Bon Appétit
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup (packed) light brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
¼ cup whole milk
2 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medium carrots (about 8 oz.), peeled, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 8×4” loaf pan with vegetable oil. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
Whisk granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, egg, milk, ginger, and vanilla in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in dry ingredients, then fold in carrots (be careful not to overmix). Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 65-70 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool completely in pan before turning out.
Cake can be made 3 days ahead. Store wrapped tightly at room temperature.