FOURTH OF JULY
The fourth of July sneaks up on us furtively as we have our eye firmly on the fourteenth. This is France, after all, and the fourth is just another working day. Middle of the week, to boot. This very American holiday slips by unnoticed, simply as a lead in to a younger son’s birthday. So no barbecue, no hot dogs tossed on a grill, no streamers or sparklers and nary a red, white and blue concoction in sight.
Our 4th of July dinner this year? Eggs sunny side up on fresh, steamed asparagus.
But funny how this is the season of red, white and blue; how well do strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries and blackberries meld and intertwine, sweet and tart, and topped with a froth of whipped cream, a crumble of meringue or layered between pure white genoise? The patriotism just oozes. And funny how the Fourth comes so close to the Fourteenth and although never the twain shall meet, the American red, white and blue coordinates so well with the French, well, bleu blanc et rouge.
A Fourth of July celebration long ago, down in sweltering Florida heat, comes to mind. Another summer vacation with my two little boys, and my younger brother Andrew decided that we must have a celebration, embracing all of the traditional home July 4th festivities and sharing them with my two little French sons; bring out their American side and show them what all of the hoopla is about. As the sweltering day turned into sultry, muggy evening, the grill was fired up, the burgers and buns were bought, the freezer stocked with ice cream sandwiches and popsicles and a great, hulking watermelon shoved into the refrigerator. And my brother being, well, my brother, who he is, he gathered the little ones around him and, his thumb pointed squarely at his own chest, explained to them that their Uncle Andrew knew how to throw a Fourth of July do and no Fourth of July party was complete without fireworks on the front lawn! And he would be in charge!
I shuddered to think….
The day before the festivities, Andrew showed up in his monster pick-up truck, pulled into the driveway at mom’s and hopped out, door slamming to announce his arrival. He swaggered into the house, called the boys and unveiled his plan of heading over the river to the big fireworks warehouse to purchase a few odds and ends for our holiday party. Just a few things. And of course, the boys must come! Two little boys jumped up and down “Please, mom, please, can we, can we go?” I glared at my brother, knowing full well there was no possible way I could oppose his plan, disappointing those two little boys with something that they found so exciting and such an integral part of the 4th of July celebrations. And anyway “Uncle Andrew says we can go!”
I hesitated. I stared at him menacingly and warned him in my best mother’s voice “They can go, but they DO NOT (words lengthened and stressed) sit in the back flatbed. They can only go if you promise that they will drive inside with you, seatbelted in securely!” Promises were made all around and I watched, heart pounding, as they all climbed into the truck and backed out of the driveway, watching the back of the pickup disappear down the street.
An hour later, I saw (from my vantage point at the front window where I had been standing since they left) the truck turn the far street corner and head back to the house, pull into the driveway. And what did I see? Two little heads, grins as wide as their heads, blowsy hair, like two little puppies with their heads stuck out a car window catching the wind, in the back of the truck together with two huge cartons. Happy as could be. Andrew climbed out of the cab of the truck, went around to the back and helped the boys out of the flatbed and then pulled out the two cartons.
“$500 worth of fireworks! “He exclaims. Roman candles, rockets, Jumping Jacks, sparklers, Fountains and Air Bombs, $500 worth nestled in those two cartons snug up against my two sons. Two grade school kids sitting unattached in the back of a truck bed going 45 mph on the highway, bouncing and sliding around the back of the truck. Going 45 mph down the highway and over the bridge. With two cartons of explosives.
Heart pounding, I hugged my boys and bit my tongue and, once again, glared hard at my brother. “I asked you not to let them sit in the back!” I hissed, fury hanging on my every word, my eyes, undoubtedly, glowing red. He answered with his casual shrug and said “Look, still all in one piece!” And there they were, my sons, safe and sound and tickled pink, dancing in their sneakers, pleased as punch and impatient for the fun and festivities to begin.
That night after sundown, sticky with watermelon and popsicles, we stood at the end of the driveway in the 4th of July Florida heat and watched Andrew light one rocket, twirly-gig and Roman candle after the next. With wonder did those two boys watch the colors and lights flash and pop, twist, twirl and swirl, explode in a shower of rainbows. We lit sparklers, their very first, and watched with wide-eyed wonder as the shooting sparks turned into flowing trails of light as we twisted them around and around in the darkness, tiny pricks against are skin. We waved at the folks down the street, the only other people standing outside and shooting off a twin collection of fireworks, synchronized with ours, and forgot about the days’ tussle in a glowing, patriotic moment of awe.
Although we don’t celebrate the 4th of July (neither do we celebrate the 14th), I do enjoy a great summer dessert in my favorite red, white and blue flavors. And spiked with a bit of Prosecco only makes this sweet, refreshing Mixed Berry Sorbet that much better and so very adult. Choose your favorite summer fruit for this iced treat, one or a selection: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries or ripe peaches, white or yellow. Strain out the seeds and skin for a smooth sorbet and use the best Nino Franco Prosecco – I discovered Nino Franco’s splendid, stunning Prosecco at Plate to Page Ireland where they were our generous sponsors (writing and styling and shooting photos is so much more pleasant and convivial when sipping glasses of Nino Franco, I can assure you!).
Sweetened with honey, kicked up with Prosecco and using your favorite berries or fruit, this sorbet is the perfect celebration all sultry summer long.
MIXED BERRY PROSECCO SORBET
17 ½ oz (500 g) berries: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries as desired, one kind of berry or a mix
5/8 cup (150 ml) Prosecco, preferably Nino Franco, or other sparkling wine, rosé or white, or a dry white wine
6 Tbs liquid honey
2 drops lemon extract or ½ tsp lemon juice, optional (I use Nielsen Massey)
Rinse the berries and pat dry. Prepare the berries as needed (pit cherries and remove the stems, cut off the green tops from the strawberries, etc).
Purée the fruit in a food processor, blender or with an emulsion mixer. If using raspberries, blackberries or cherries, strain and push through a strainer to separate out the “impurities” – seeds and skins; this will leave you with a pure, smooth liquid.
Add the Prosecco, the honey and the lemon extract or lemon juice (if adding) and blend or whisk well. Pour the liquid into a freezer-safe container, a metal pan or a plastic container, preferably with a lid, and place in the freezer. The larger and shallower your pan (8 x 12 x 1 inch/20 x 30 x 2 cm), the quicker the sorbet will be ready to eat.
For a shallow pan, stir the sorbet every 15 minutes or so, using a fork, spatula or metal spoon, until ready to serve. For a deeper container, stir every few hours and then leave in the freezer overnight. Stir it up before serving.
Serve as is or, for a more decadent or elegant dessert, or for a festive 4th of July treat, serve with a dollop of unsweetened or very lightly sweetened whipped cream and dot with blueberries.
More Prosecco recipe you will also love:
From Life's a Feast: Cherry Prosecco Granità
& Peach Prosecco Bellini Sorbet
From What’s For Lunch, Honey?:
Prosecco Pears with Blood Orange Mascarpone Cream
From Lucullian Delights:
Apple Prosecco Compote
& Chocolate Cupcakes with Prosecco Frosting
From Eggs on the Roof:
Longstocking Vodka, Clementine and Prosecco Cocktail
From Creative Culinary:
Limoncello and Prosecco Cooler with Raspberry Ice Cubes
From Bon Appétit:
Prosecco Raspberry Gelée