Since this is almost my sixth (yikes!) year writing this column, I’ve run out of amusing July 4th stories. So, instead I decided to do some research on Independence Day. Sure, we may celebrate with delectable BBQ’s, attend fireworks displays, head for the beach, picnics or the pool — but how many of us know all the facts and he myths?
Here are 10 facts assembled by Jim Schuett in “Coffee Table Reading” (rogersfamilyco.com):
•Independence Day was actually supposed to be July 2nd, but the Declaration of Independence wasn’t adopted until July 4th.
•Even though Independence Day is the celebrated on the 4th of July and the Declaration of Independence starts with “In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America…” the document was not signed until Aug. 2, 1776, when 50 men signed it.
•The first anniversary was celebrated on July 4, 1777 in Philadelphia with an official dinner for the Continental Congress.
•George Washington celebrated July 4, 1778, with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute in Princeton.
•The first public “official” White House Fourth of July event didn’t happen until 1804.
•Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, both died on Independence Day, July 4, 1826. which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.
•The 4th of July is also independence day for Rwanda.
•Fireworks were first authorized by Congress for Fourth of July, 1777.
•The first Independence Day celebration west of the Mississippi occurred at Independence Creek and was celebrated by Lewis and Clark in 1805.
•The Fourth of July wasn’t officially declared a national holiday until 1941 and is the only federal holiday that has not been moved to a Thursday, Friday or Monday for convenience.
National Georgraphic debunked nine Fourth of July myths, including these:
•U.S. independence surely prompted a party, but joyful patriots didn’t ring the Liberty Bell until it cracked on July 4, 1776. In fact the State House Bell likely didn’t ring at all that day. It probably did ring, along with the city’s other bells, to herald the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, according to a history of the bell published by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.
•There is no proof that Betsy Ross played any part in designing or sewing the American flag that made its debut in 1777. In fact, the story of the famous seamstress didn’t circulate until it was raised by her grandson nearly a century after the fact. To be fair, there’s also no conclusive evidence that Ross didn’t sew the flag, and there are several reasons why she just might have done so. The Betsy Ross House on Philadelphia’s Arch Street (where Ross may or may not have actually lived) tells the whole tale and leaves visitors to draw their own conclusions.
In the Food Network Magazine, I found a really creative 4th of July ice cream cake. It’s obviously dairy, but for those who want to make it pareve, you can substitute the following (I tried it and it worked out very well)—
I used my own vanilla cake recipe (email me for the recipe at firstname.lastname@example.org). You can use a boxed cake mix, just make sure it’s pareve. Substitute margarine or Pam instead of butter, Tofutti or pareve ice cream instead of dairy ice cream, Rich’s non-dairy whip cream (you will have to beat it, as you do heavy cream). If you use Rich’s whip, you don’t need the confectioner’s sugar.
1 16-to-18-ounce box white cake mix (plus required ingredients)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
28 drops royal blue gel food coloring
4 drops violet gel food coloring
Unsalted butter, for the pan
3 pints raspberry sorbet
2-1/2 pints vanilla ice cream
2 pints heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch-round springform pan with cooking spray. Prepare the cake mix as directed, adding the cocoa powder and food coloring to the batter. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake until done, about 45 minutes.
Let the cake cool, then remove from the pan; level the domed top with a serrated knife. Use a 5-inch circle of parchment paper as a guide to cut a circle from the center of the cake (you won’t need the small circle). Freeze the large cake ring.
Cut a 6-by-30-inch strip of parchment paper. Clean the springform pan, then butter it and line the side with the parchment; the paper will extend above the rim of the pan so you can build a tall cake.
Let 1 pint sorbet soften slightly at room temperature. Spread in the prepared pan, then lay a piece of plastic wrap on top and use the bottom of a measuring cup to pack the sorbet into the pan in an even layer. Freeze until firm, at least 30 minutes.
Let 1 pint vanilla ice cream soften; spread in the pan, cover with plastic wrap and press evenly with the measuring cup. Freeze until firm, then repeat to make 1 more layer each of sorbet and ice cream (4 layers total). Freeze until firm.
Place the blue cake ring on top of the ice cream, pressing gently; return to the freezer while you prepare the next layer.
Cut off the top 1-1/2 inches of the remaining sorbet carton; remove the carton and wrap the sorbet loosely in plastic wrap. Press into a 5-inch round, then place the flattened sorbet into the hole in the cake, smoothing as needed. Freeze until firm.
Cut off the top 1-1/2 inches of the remaining ice cream carton (you won’t need the bottom). Flatten as you did the sorbet; place on top of the raspberry layer. Repeat with the bottom section of sorbet. Freeze until firm.
Beat the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar with a mixer until stiff peaks form. Remove the springform ring and parchment collar from the cake. Cover the cake with the whipped cream. Freeze until ready to serve.