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4th of July: An Essay & A Mountain of Burger Fixings

4th of July: An Essay & A Mountain of Burger Fixings

Hey Party-Makers,

I hope you’re enjoying the beginning of summer. I know I’ve been taking EVERY opportunity to bask in the sunshine (okay, okay, and also in the A/C).

As we have been approaching the 4th of July, I confess that I have been feeling sort of…anxious. And not the good, I’m -so-anxious-to-fill-my-plate kind of anxiety. It’s the kind of anxiety where I’ve been dreading writing about this holiday. I’ve probably written about 8 different drafts of this blog post that I’ve either totally deleted or have edited heavily.

The reason I’m sharing this with you, is because this is honestly a sensitive topic for me. And while it would definitely be easier for me to bypass how I feel, and just share about the food—that’s just not what we’re about here. This space is about more than just food. It’s about the environments we create in our homes, around the table, and with our crew. It’s about real life. It’s about honesty. So that having been said, here is my 4th of July confession:

I do not feel very patriotic this year.

For the past few years, I’ve been navigating an internal process of figuring out my cultural identity. That extends past race, and into the regional cultures I grew up in, learned in, and now that I live and partake in. It has been a long, hard process to go through. Digging into what has shaped you always is. And while there are many beautiful pieces about my different cultures, there are also hard things.

In this process, I discovered a part of me that was cultivated by white US citizens ( Not ALL white folk, but enough. Also, the term ‘American’ doesn’t cut it for me, because the US isn’t the only part of this continent). Probably unknowingly, and unassumingly, somewhere along the way in my growing up, I learned to try to take control of my story. I actually used to introduce myself as a Tiny Guatemalan in high school, because it meant that I didn’t have to go through the insensitive ways folks used to ask where I was really from (because saying I was born in Tennessee wasn’t enough). When I introduced myself that way, I was in control of the narrative unfolding in their heads: yes I was born in the US, my parents had become citizens after many years of working through the legal system (because I lived in a reality where your immigration status plays a role in the respect you receive), we paid our taxes; In short, I did everything I could to communicate my family didn’t fit into the stereotypes created for us.

It was a part of who I am that I didn’t think about until I graduated college, and I began to examine how I introduced myself to folks in the career realm. Why was it necessary to interject my racial identity into my introductions? When had that started? Why was it relevant to my skills? I know there are probably a few of you out there rolling your eyes, thinking “oh no, another identity politics post.” But the reality is, that identity is really important when you’re not white, because in too many cases, there are heavy assumptions placed on who you are before you even open your mouth. And I’m not trying to demonize white folks here. I married a beautiful white man who I love to the deepest core of my being. A lot of my closest friends are white. I see beautiful things in you, and I strive to believe the best of you. However, the reality still stands that as a person of color, there have been several times when I’ve had to justify being a US citizen because we’ve normalized the idea that a US citizen should be white.

A year ago, I bought a USA tank top to wear for the Olympics. A few weeks afterwards, I was verbally attacked at a grocery store and the man who was yelling at me told me to get the f*** out of his country, because I was ruining it. In the last year, with the most outrageous election cycle I’ve ever lived through, I experienced some of the most overt racism. Once when I was walking with Ben, a group of men yelled at me repeatedly that I was only trying to get my anchor baby by being with my husband, and continued to yell derogatory terms at me (I know this sounds absurd. It was even more absurd to experience it). I began to experience this continual doubt of whether I belonged here, based on how I was being treated by strangers (and sometimes by really safe people I confided my experiences to, who tried to downplay the reality of them). So, a few weeks ago, I sold that tank top after having worn it only once, because these past two years I’ve had a hard time believing that the beautiful parts of the preamble to the constitution apply to people who look like me.

||We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…||

In the last year, I’ve watched more black folks lose their lives for unjust reasons than I’ve had emotional capacity to grieve. I’ve read TOO MANY justifications for their deaths, instead of outcries at the injustice of them. I’ve watched and heard bigotry get louder. I’ve gone in and out of seasons of yelling that this all hurts on a physical and emotional and spiritual level, and keeping in complete silence because the backlash from those outcries are fierce and swift.

So this 4th of July, I have a hard time feeling patriotic. The actual definition of patriotism is vigorous support of one’s nation.

I would say I can relate to that whenever there is an international sporting competition. I can summon my best USA chants during the Olympics or the World Cup.  But this holiday for me this year, is different. How do I celebrate a country that doesn’t fully embrace that I belong? How do I celebrate when I am in a continual state of grief at how black folks, Native Americans, immigrants, and refugees are criminalized and subjected to a lower standard of justice?

It’s hard. It’s hard because I do love this country. It is a part of my culture and identity. But it’s also hard because I feel a sense of loss at the brave United States I held in my mind growing up, that I find harder and harder to see. America, the Beautiful has become so different than what I once knew her as. And while that song still gives me chills and summons a lump in my throat, it’s for different reasons.

But here’s the thing I’ve realized this year: when I look at the United States as a whole, I see fractures everywhere I look. Fractures that have probably always been there. And that big picture is messy, y’all. But when I look closer, when I zoom into my little corner of the country with my little world of friends and family, there is such a deep affection for this place. For the stories I’ve built and am building in my small communities. For the little safe pocket of the world that I’ve found as we’ve been trying to build our table simultaneously longer, and more intimate.

And I can celebrate that. I can celebrate the freedom to write these thoughts. I can celebrate my right to give money to causes that protect and serve those I care about. I can celebrate the bravery of the families and individuals who have made active choices, and lived incredibly difficult lifestyles to keep this country safe. I can celebrate the rainbow of people I know and love, who are listening to people they disagree with, asking questions and giving voice to those who have gone unheard for too long, and working hard to build stronger communities. 

As I’ve been thinking of it this way, I realize that I have my own version of Patriotism: A patriotism of vigorous action for this nation. My nation. And thinking about it that way, it gives me a sense of freedom. A freedom to believe that grief, that marching, that tough love and dissent can all be patriotic.

I can be Patriotic for the United States that I hope to build. Starting in my little pocket of the country, and radiating out.

I could obviously write a lot more about this. But, the food is getting cold. Metaphorically, at least. And I DID promise you a list of beautiful burger fixings. So here they are:

Makes: 8 Burgers
Time: 3 hours
1 C Warm Water
3 TBSP Warm Milk
2 TSP Active Dry Yeast
2 1/2 TBSP Sugar
2 Large Eggs
3 1/3 C Bread Flour
1 1/2 TSP Salt
2 1/2 TBSP butter, softened
Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Seasoning (optional)
  • Whisk together the water, milk, yeast, sugar and egg.
  • In a large bowl, mix the remaining dry ingredients and the butter with a hand mixer or a standing mixer. The butter should be grainy and in small pieces when you are done.
  • Add the liquid mixture and mix or knead until you have a smooth dough ball (5-7 mins)
  • Place in a large bowl covered with a damp kitchen towel, and let rise until the size has doubled. I placed mine out of direct sunlight in my patio for one hour and it did the trick!
  • Punch down the dough and roll out into 8 equal pieces (here is a great video for rolling out and shaping the buns https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xQfXC8Jw4Q) and allow to rise a second time (about thirty minutes). Towards the end of this rise, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Use the remaining egg to make an egg wash (add a dash of water and whisk it with the egg) and brush it onto the rolls. Add seasoning or sesame seeds at this point if desired
  • Place a pan with about a cup of water in the oven on the lowest rack (to create moisture for fluffy buns) and place the buns in the oven to cook for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool before eating, and enjoy!
These buns were OUT of this world delicious! They were fluffy, strong enough for ALLLLL our toppings, and they didn’t get soggy when we added our sauces to burgers. I don’t know that I’ll be able to go back to buying buns at the store. This recipe doesn’t take a lot of active time on your part, so while the cooking time is gone, you have time to make other things (or even watch a movie) during the passive time. I tripled this recipe to make enough buns for Ben’s birthday and it didn’t affect the quality at all.
Time: 30 minutes
1 C Flour, separated
1/2 C Milk
1 Egg
1 TBSP Paprika
1 TSP Salt
1 1/2 C Bread Crumbs
1 Large Onion, sliced
1/3 C Grapeseed OR Coconut Oil
  • Slice Onion into rounds
  • Grab three separate bowls: in the first one, add 1/2 C flour, paprika, and salt. In the second bowl combine the egg, milk, remaining flour. In the third bowl, add breadcrumbs.
  • Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. While oil is heating, begin by dipping onion rounds in the flour bowl, the liquid bowl, and finally in the bread crumbs. Cook in the oil for about 1 minute per side, drain of excess oil and enjoy!
Servings: 8
Time: 30 Minutes
2 TBSP Olive or Avocado Oil
2 TSP Salt
1 TSP Garlic Salt
1/3 C Parmesan
1/3 C Bread Crumbs
5 Russet Potatoes, sliced into steak fries
  • Preheat your oven to 450. While oven is heating up, slice potatoes and cover in all the dry ingredients and the avocado oil.
  • Cook for 20 minutes or until crispy and slightly golden on the outside.
TIME: (active) 10, (passive) 1 hour
1 Large Red Onion, sliced in thin slices
1/4 C Avocado OR Olive Oil
1/4 C Red Wine Vinegar
1 TBSP Dried Oregano
1/2 TBSP Salt
  • Combine ingredients in a bowl and let marinate at room temperature for at least an hour (up to 6). Enjoy as a topping on salads, breakfasts, burgers and more.
Servings: 8
Time: 10 Minutes
1 Bag of Trader Joe’s Cruciferous Crunch Salad Mix
1 Large Cucumber, shaved
3 Rainbow Carrots, shaved
1/4 Cup Costco Truffle Olive Oil (plain olive oil works, too)
3 TBSP Lemon Juice
1 TBSP Salt
  • Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl, let rest for 5 minutes for flavors to marry, and serve!
  • Grilled Pineapple Rounds
  • Sliced Avocado
  • Sautéed Mushrooms and onions (cooked in ghee, chicken broth and a little salt)
  • Assorted cheeses
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Bacon
  • Micro Greens ( I get mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Butter Lettuce (this is a great option to have around for GF folks to eat their hamburgers with!)



Wherever you’re at this 4th of July I hope you feel safe and empowered. I hope time with your crew is beautiful. I hope you get rest if you need it, and I hope your burgers are sky high.


Love, love, love,

Mary-Beth is a creative, food-obsessed, Georgia transplant living in the PNW. She is proudly and fiercely Latina. You can usually find her wandering her house in pajamas staging the next social justice revolution in her head, or eating her way through Portland with her favorite people. Her life is a constant juggling of chasing joy, learning about rest/work balance, pursuing justice, and loving her crew deeply. Also tacos. Her life is full of really good tacos.

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