Connecting: Telling Stories with Food… A Southern Tradition

Jul 23 2012

by Whitney Long

By Laura Leigh Packard

Fire Works, the Fourth, and Four Layered Jars of “Q”

Fireworks are intimidating things. Especially for kids.

I know, seeing as we have all heard terrifying and nightmare-inducing tall tales from our elders like…“Be careful not to lose an eye…or a hand…or the majority of your hair….remember the story about Uncle Bud, two cherry bombs, and the neighbor’s wooden mailbox shaped like a duck?”

This would be ominously tossed out from the den as we headed out the door on the night of the 4th towards our respective driveways and backyards …..while carrying a half dozen bottle rockets in one hand, a Bick lighter and few boxes of sparklers and a matchbox in the other.

But we never cared because no matter how dangerous, these sticks of wood carrying various chemicals and some gun powder were also symbolic-a true example of American Exceptionalism. Fireworks and the Fourth represent everything we love about the very concept of freedom itself-even as a kid: the propulsion of forward movement, shooting for the stars, the sky’s the limit, defying gravity, freedom of flight, and a search for something greater than ourselves.

Yes, eventually everything that goes up, must fall down, but I like to think that whatever it might be that still finds its way back to earth descends well spent, seriously charred and utterly exhausted, but still screaming “wow….oh my, what a ride.”

My nine year old daughter said it best when she wrote about what they mean to her: “Fireworks make you feel like you want to, well, be a firework and have fun. You can shoot up into the sky and be yourself, be amazing. And you know how people sometimes say ‘show your true colors’. Well, that is also what fireworks make you want to do, because they like to show their true colors too, but in so many different ways!”

She is so right, you know. Everyone is unique, not a single spark in the sky is the same. It’s a blast of color, exploding way up high above us and that is what celebrating Independence Day means to me……recognizing individualism in its entire rainbow of reflective light…. originally spectacular, and shimmering in so many distinctive and varying shapes, forms and shades.

Basically, it’s about our God given right to express ourselves without judgment or penalty….and to shine….even if it’s for the briefest of moments. Each and every one of us.

For me, as a kid, the fourth was about BBQ, family and friends, and tailgating front and center wherever we could find the most spectacular fireworks show. These days, we take the LauraLeigh, our floating den of a three pronged pontoon boat, out in front of Little Saint Simons Island where we can see the almighty trifecta of a Fourth of July show from the lip of the Atlantic overlooking the firework displays of Jekyll, Sea Island, and the pier at Saint Simons Island. It’s heavenly fun.

And here’s something heavenly good to eat- the four layered Q served in a mason jar– what’s more Southern than that? It’s the dinner we serve on board with skewered fresh fruit and sour cream pound cake. It’s also ideal for picnics on the lawn or tailgating off the back of your car watching the show. But no matter where find yourself, remember it’s all about good food, good company, and a good reason to celebrate the many freedoms we enjoy, not once a year, but every single day.

Now, don’t forget to click this link to my website and read one of my favorite stories I wrote two years ago for Coastal Illustrated, Domestic Revolution, which celebrates (with a good dose of humor) the women behind the men that formed the Declaration of Independence. We all know it couldn’t have happened without them!

Travel Ready:

Four Layered “Q” in Mason Jars with Red, White, and Blue Fruit Kebobs with Sour Cream Pound Cake Squares

Alright, y’all. I just double checked with my mom to make sure I’ve left nothing out, so here goes our family’s beef brisket recipe. Just remember this baby takes over eight hours to cook:

Pick up a whole beef brisket at the grocery or butcher, if you can lift it. Once you’ve hog tied and dragged it from your car to your kitchen, place two layers of heavy duty foil in your Dutch oven. Place your brisket on top of the foil and pour the Dales seasoning (made in Birmingham) over the beef, but be careful not to over do it, for like patchouli and 50 year old whiskey, it is powerful stuff. Also, there’s no need to marinade it ahead of time either, just pour it on right before you seal it up in the tin foil and put it in the oven for 200 degrees for eight hours. Once it’s done, mix your favorite BBQ sauce to it. Mom recommends Williamson’s (her married name and my maiden one-but no relation). Whatever you pick, she suggests something less sweet that’ll work with the soy and the ginger of the Dale’s. Shred with two forks.

Next, I like to use broccoli slaw for this recipe because it’s heartier than cabbage and layers up nicely. It’s as simple as buying the already shredded bags with carrots and radish for some color, then add 4 chopped green onions to boot. (Now, I really sound like my mom.) Then, make this slaw dressing ahead of time, mixing it well, so it can bind and thicken for a few hours in fridge before tossing it all together with the veggies.

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 cup mayo

½ cup sugar

2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar

Tossed with 1-2 bags (or anywhere in between) of pre-cut broccoli slaw

When it comes to the beans, I defer to our local, resident doctor, Carl Dohn…..woodworker (he made- by hand- the incredible table the free leaders of the world sat around when they came down to Sea Island for the G8 Summit as few years back), hunter, and grill master extraordinaire. He swears by the Winn Dixie brand baked beans in a tub. And as usual, he’s right. He recommends though you add yellow mustard and a chopped green pepper to taste.

Layer all components together in Mason jar (slaw, beef, slaw, beans) seal the top and tie it with a bit of twine you can find (as well as the jars) at your local hardware store around the outside lid of the jar and then slip an array of red, white, or blue, forks through them. Next, gently stack the jars in an insulated collapsible tote- check out for fun and festive picnic wear. They even monogram.

Next up, rinse fresh blueberries, raspberries and sliced strawberries in a colander- only make sure they dry completely so they don’t bleed before you-or your dependents- assemble the skewers. Then, you can layer one after the other in between a cut squared off piece of your favorite pound cake for a cheerful red, white, and blue vibe.

Line up skewers in a large Tupperware container sealed tightly and place on top of your insulated cooler or tote with the four layered “Q” mason jars. There is nothing wrong with throwing a roll of Bounty papers towels and a bag of Captain Derst’s Old Fashion Bread (Savannah’s finest) into your beach bag that’s been already packed with a few blankets and a box of sparklers and a bunch of hand held American flags. Also, don’t even think twice about tossing a canister of Rediwhip- the kind even adults love to squirt in their mouth right out of the can- into the iced down cooler with all your favorite drinks. Seriously y’all, that’s all you need and you are good to go.

So, Happy Independence Day! Go forth and prosper and create a story about the fourth all your own. Hopefully, though, not one about a firecracker gone awry and an exploding duck-shaped mailbox (really, Uncle Bud, do you really think we believe it flew in there on its own?) Talk to you real soon!

Check out Laura’s pinterest board, ‘Red, White and Blue.’

Laura Leigh Packard is a contributor to The Southern C and is also a free lance writer who has lived all 40 years of her life here in the South and in five different states (Texas, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia) and is proud to call herself a Southerner. She currently lives on the coast of Georgia on St. Simons Island.

Photo credit:

As seen in Coastal Illustrated


Whitney Long View More Blog Posts from this Author

Whitney Long is co-founder of The Southern C and The Southern C Summit. Mama x 4, wife x 1. Entrepreneur, thinker, doer, writer, researcher, believer. Enjoys working alongside creative entrepreneurs to build community while supporting established and upcoming brands. Hobbies include travel, reading, bike rides and clever craft cocktails.

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