Apple Pie and July 4th

I remember hearing as a child that after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the signers gathered at Benjamin Franklin’s home.  They had a nice glass of port and a huge slice of apple pie.

The glass of port may be true since it was the gentlemen’s drink of the times, unlike the common apple cider that was the commoner’s daily draught, but apple pie?  Contrary to popular belief when I was a boy, apple pie is not a true American creation since the apple was not an indigenous tree.

My maternal grandmother loved to do fried apple pies in her cast iron skillet which she had inherited from her mother.  She and her sister were the only girls and how they reached détente on who inherited what will have to remain a mystery.

Of course their brothers had no interest in cooking utensils, skillets, etc.  When it came down to the kitchen, it was a woman’s private world which they chose not to enter; but they certainly enjoyed what came from the kitchen creations with relish, especially buttermilk biscuits with a heaping helping of butter and apple butter.

Back to the apple pie history:

The colonists brought apples to the “New World” and had more uses for them than Bubba did for shrimp in Forrest Gump. Apples were a breakfast staple for the colonists but in the form of cider and not pie. If we are to officially designate a pie that is solely American in origin it would likely be either blueberry or strawberry pie, since both are North American in origin.

Does this make apple pie a foreign interloper which should be banished from shore to shore?  Of course not!

Like a number of things in the American experience, they have been incorporated from various cultures on this planet traversing the cosmos.  What makes something truly American is not its place of origin—it is the assimilation of the item into the great melting pot of what the United States has become over the centuries.

So whatever family traditions you have, enjoy the day!  The 4th is special in many ways, and let’s keep it that way because heritage is always one generation away from oblivion.


A final quote in closing:

According to the American Pie Council, Americans consume $700 million worth of retail pies each year — and that doesn’t include those that are home-baked, or sold by restaurants and independent bakers. Of those who responded to surveys, 19% of Americans—some 36 million people—cited apple is their favorite flavor. That’s a lot of apple pie.

“Though we’ve made the case here that apple pie isn’t so American after all, one could argue that just because something originated somewhere else doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t become a source of national pride elsewhere. America took the apple pie to heights it had never seen before — elevated it as a treasured part of its lore and history. And though it wouldn’t be fair to call apple pie “American” without acknowledging its past, the baked good seems to be just at home here as anywhere else in the world.


G. D. Williams © 2017

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G. D. Williams ©

History of Apple Pie

First of all, apples themselves aren’t American. When colonists arrived in North America, they found only crab apple trees—and if you’ve ever tried to eat a crab apple, you probably know that they wouldn’t be very nice in pies. The most likely ancestor of apples as we know them today can still be found in Asia: the wild genus Malus sieversii. Alexander the Great is said to have discovered dwarfed apples in Kazakhstan and brought them back to Macedonia in 328 BC, but there is fossilized evidence of apples dating as far back as the Iron and Stone Ages in Switzerland and other parts of Europe.

Apple pies were beloved by the English — so much so, that pastoral writers and poets often alluded to them in romantic soliloquies (“thy breath is like the steame of apple-pyes,” wrote Robert Green in 1590). In the early 1500s, Dutch bakers, who shared this passion, took the concept of the apple pie and pioneered the lattice-style crust we’re used to today; over the course of a century, the pies were ubiquitous throughout France, Italy, and Germany.

It wasn’t until the mid-1600s, through complex sea trade routes, that edible apples made their way to North America. Even then, they came in the form of trees, and required extensive pollination to bear fruit; as such, the fruit didn’t flourish until European honey bees were introduced decades later. Only one type of apple — the malus, or “crabapple” — was native to North America prior to this, and it was incredibly sour and foul-tasting.


History of the Fourth of July

July 4, 1776, became the date that was included on the Declaration of Independence, and the fancy handwritten copy that was signed in August (the copy now displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.) It’s also the date that was printed on the Dunlap Broadsides, the original printed copies of the Declaration that were circulated throughout the new nation. So when people thought of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 was the date they remembered.

In contrast, we celebrate Constitution Day on September 17th of each year, the anniversary of the date the Constitution was signed, not the anniversary of the date it was approved. If we’d followed this same approach for the Declaration of Independence we’d being celebrating Independence Day on August 2nd of each year, the day the Declaration of Independence was signed!

Of the 13 colonies, nine voted in favor of the Declaration, two — Pennsylvania and South Carolina — voted No, Delaware was undecided and New York abstained. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that John Hancock’s signed his name “with a great flourish” so England’s “King George can read that without spectacles!”

Today, the original copy of the Declaration is housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and July 4 has been designated a national holiday to commemorate the day the United States laid down its claim to be a free and independent nation.

The Fourth of July—also known as Independence Day or July 4th—has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.

On June 11, 1776, the Colonies’ Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and formed a committee whose express purpose was drafting a document that would formally sever their ties with Great Britain. The committee included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson, who was considered the strongest and most eloquent writer, crafted the original draft document (as seen above). A total of 86 changes were made to his draft and the Continental Congress officially adopted the final version on July 4, 1776.

The following day, copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed, and on July 6, The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print the extraordinary document. The Declaration of Independence has since become our nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty.

Loch Garry Posts

The 4th: Old Glory, Apple Pie and American Ideals

The 4th of July conjures up all aspects of the American experiment.  Old Glory waving in the July breezes of summer; baseball games and hot dogs; fresh apple and cherry pies on picnic tables and bazaars; grills a-blazing; festive tunes and songs with some banjo picking; and of course fireworks to send dogs yelping and babies crying, with spectacular displays to dazzle and enchant the child in all of us.

Heritage: A Few Moments To Remember July 4th

In 1776 a handful of men met in Philadelphia to make one of the most controversial decisions in the history of the human race.  In addressing their grievances and intentions to the King of Great Britain, the 13 states (colonies on the North America’s soil) would take an audacious step which would result in bloodshed and a break from the nefarious ways of the Old World.

As you and your family go about the day’s activities ( apple pie, baseball, barbecue, parades, fireworks, etc. ) take a few moments to reflect how much it took—“the last full measure of devotion”—for you to enjoy this day.  Remember that those brave people who forged a new nation and who held a nation together were willing to engage in a costly endeavor of human sacrifice and dedication to ideals beyond the normal realm of life on this planet traversing the cosmos.





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