America’s Feast

Some things are truly American. Our music-gospel, blues, country, bluegrass, rock, jazz-changed the cultural landscape. Food, American-style, is a multi-cultural, ever-evolving melting pot that welcomes new recipes while honoring tradition.

It’s summertime, and outdoor celebrations dot the landscape. Few compare to Independence Day. July 4 is not only the nation’s birthday, but an occasion when millions gather for a big backyard feast.

Barbecue, a solid American tradition, is front center. Delights from the grill are expected: baby back ribs, brisket, grilled chicken with sides of potato salad, cole slaw and mac ’n cheese. Desserts? Peaches are in season in the Southeast and cobblers are hard to beat.

Families and friends come together following in the tradition of one Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. Feasts were regular events at Monticello where guests not only ate fresh food but were treated with wines of France, Italy, Germany and Spain from our third president’s cellar.

George Washington with Marquis de Lafayette

France was instrumental in securing America’s independence. The Marquis de Lafayette who led the French forces allied with George Washington’s colonial army to defeat the British, was a genuine hero in America. During a return visit to the new country in 1825, he visited Milledgeville, Georgia, and was honored with a barbecue attended by a legion of grateful Americans.

Barbecue Nirvana

Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur, Alabama is BBQ’s global king.

Two landmark restaurants, one in Georgia and another in North Alabama, are heralded by critics and diners. Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur, Alabama is the undisputed global king of barbecue. Fresh Air, a modest, rustic enterprise in Jackson, Georgia looks the same as it did in the early 1920’s. The common bond they share is hickory coals, smoke, meat and something special that aficionados say “you know it at first bite.”

Doc’s Revolutionary Ribs

Baby Back Ribs from the grill


1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

salt and pepper to taste

3 pounds baby back pork ribs

1 cup barbeque sauce (Stubbs is outstanding)


Preheat a gas grill for high heat, or arrange charcoal briquettes on one side of the barbeque. Lightly oil the grate.
In a small jar, combine cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Close the lid, and shake to mix.
Trim the membrane sheath from the back of each rack. Run a small, sharp knife between the membrane and each rib, and snip off the membrane as much as possible. Sprinkle as much of the rub onto both sides of the ribs as desired. To prevent the ribs from becoming too dark and spicy, do not thoroughly rub the spices into the ribs. Store the unused portion of the spice mix for future use.
Place aluminum foil on lower rack to capture drippings and prevent flare-ups. Lay the ribs on the top rack of the grill (away from the coals, if you’re using briquettes). Reduce gas heat to low, close lid, and leave undisturbed for 1 hour. Do not lift the lid at all.
Brush ribs with barbecue sauce, and grill an additional 5 minutes. Serve ribs as whole rack, or cut between each rib bone and pile individually on a platter.

DRINKS: This is America’s birthday. Iced Tea, Jack Daniel’s with Coca-Cola, domestic Pinot Noir or, if you can find it, Norton from a Virginia winery. Take a moment for a toast, remembering those who gathered in Philadelphis and signed the document that began a new country.

Old school journalism describes the style and stories produced by Doc Lawrence. “In everything I do,” he says, “there is a beginning, middle and an end.” One of the top travel writers in the country, Doc is steeped in the heritage of the deep south. Traveling the back roads from Texas to Virginia and on down to Key West inspires stories about local food and wine preferences, community theater, folk art and music often leading to clues for a good story. Heroes include Faulkner, Hemingway, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ralph Ellison, Dorothy Parker and Willie Morris. An Atlanta native, Doc keeps a well-stocked wine cellar and bar and two outdoor grills. He enjoys entertaining and believes that the greatest challenge for a writer is to keep searching for a higher life. |
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