Author: Edgar Patterson

Here’s Why We Celebrate the 4th With Fireworks

One of the iconic traditions for the 4th of July celebrations that happen each year in the United States is to light fireworks. Did you know that we all have President John Adams to thank for this tradition?

When Adams was getting ready to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he wrote a letter to his wife. In it, he said that the moment would be one of the most memorable occasions in America’s history. It should be solemnized with numerous activities, including bonfires and illuminations, from “one end of the continent to the other.”

Since Adams was a well-known figure in the colonies, it didn’t take long for his wishes to spread to each community. Only one year later, in 1777, the first party to celebrate the 4th of July was held in Philadelphia. They set off 13 firework rockets in the town square.

The U.S. Has Never Had a 4th of July Without Fireworks

Although most cities didn’t celebrate with fireworks on that first 4th of July remembrance, it has been a holiday when fireworks have always been present. Even if we’re not celebrating together in person because of the ongoing pandemic, the colorful displays in the sky are still viewable online or while following social distancing.

It’s a unique holiday tradition, especially since most historians think that fireworks were invented over 2,300 years ago in China.

Adams would be proud of what would become a holiday tradition if he could see it today. From hot dogs and apple pie to the pomp and circumstance of community parades, this day is one of the few times when people set their differences aside to celebrate their country.

Can you imagine what would be possible if we were to follow the same process each day that we do when celebrating the founding of the United States?

States with the Best Seafood

If you love having seafood, you’ll find that some states do a better job of delivering the ocean’s bounty than others.

You don’t need to live in a coastal state to enjoy fresh seafood. Many areas have inland waters, including rivers and lakes, that offer freshwater fish and other species to enjoy.

Here are the best states for seafood you’ll want to visit. If you already live in one of them, you should consider yourself lucky!

1. California

With almost 900 miles of coastline to manage, you’ll find a wide range of seafood to enjoy here. When you’re in SoCal, expect to find everything from rock crab to spot prawns. As you travel north, you can find Dungeness crab, abalone, and oysters.

2. Florida

The Intracoastal waters and access to deep-water fishing make this state a fantastic seafood destination. When you add the Gulf of Mexico into the mix, the bounty becomes phenomenal! You can get almost anything here, including snapper, grouper, spiny lobster, and several crab species.

3. Louisiana

About 40% of the country’s estuary marshes are found in this state. It’s the home to the largest commercial fishery as well, producing everything from oysters to catfish. If you stop for a visit, don’t forget about the crawfish that came from the local waters!

4. Alaska

With nearly 7,000 miles of coastline, some of the best seafood you’ll eat comes from this state. Many of the king crab, halibut, salmon, and shrimp supplies we enjoy come from these waters. You can even talk with the wholesalers about shipping items directly to your door.

5. Massachusetts

The fishing industry is what helped to build this state’s economy in its early days. That’s because over 80 different seafood species live off of the coast. You’ll love the bass, trout, and tuna that are plentiful, and you can even grab clams and oysters in season.

Where do you like to go for your seafood adventures?

On another note, does anyone know where to go for a good pepperoni roll?

5 Smallest Towns and Why They’re Great

You should visit New Glarus at least once. This small town of about 2,000 people sits halfway between Madison and Monroe in Wisconsin. You’ll find Swiss culture is prevalent throughout the community, even with the chalets that serve as residential homes.

You’ll even find an award-winning brewery operating in the community. With numerous festivals, alphorn concerns, and Swiss-related businesses, it’s a cool small town.

Here are some other small towns in the United States and why they’re great.

1. Fairhope, AL

This Southern community has a French Quarter, one of the state’s best hotels, and access to a fantastic spa. You can find two golf courses awaiting your arrival, with both often rated as some of the best in the United States.

2. Unalaska, AK

About 4,500 people live in this small town that became famous after the Deadliest Catch series premiered. Several major cruise lines have now added it as a destination. You can do some whale watching, catch a fishing charter, and explore the wartime history from the 1940s.

3. Eureka Springs, AR

This small town is often listed as one of America’s most distinctive destinations. You’ll find Victorian-style homes perched on cliffs, over 100 shops in the downtown area, and plenty of galleries to explore.

4. Carmel, CA

This village might only be one square mile in size, but it is one of the best small towns in the US. You’ll find fairytale cottages there, upscale boutiques, and a famous basilica to tour. If you love to visit the beach, this destination is for you.

5. Mancos, CO

When you visit this small town, you’ll be right outside of Mesa Verde National Bark. About 10% of the town’s population are working artists, writers, and other creatives. With the mountains on one side and ranches on the other, it’s a fantastic spot for those who want to live a slower lifestyle.

What are some of the best small towns you’ve visited?

Why Kentucky Is the Bourbon Capital of the World

Although there isn’t a law that says bourbon must be made in Kentucky, there might as well be with the production levels that happen there. The corn-based spirits age in barrels to create about 95% of the world’s supply.

If you think that something must be in the water in Kentucky to make great bourbon, you’d be right. Much of the state is on top of blue limestone deposits, adding more magnesium and calcium to the groundwater tables.

When you dunk a cup into a Kentucky stream, the water will taste better than almost anything else you’ll find in the country.

Kentucky’s Weather Contributes to the Bourbon

The continental climate you can find in Kentucky also makes the state an excellent place for making bourbon. You get hot summers and chilly winters, allowing the whiskey to develop its distinctive flavor within the charred aging barrels.

Those temperature changes allow the wood to breathe, creating the expansion and contraction needed for the alcohol to move in and out.

That facet of Kentucky life is also why corn production in the state occurs at high levels. Immigrants from Virginia were given 400 acres of land to use if they built a cabin and planted the crop, with many of them coming from Ireland and Scotland.

With the distilling knowledge they brought with them, Kentucky was a paradise for those who loved bourbon.

Kentucky Bourbon Changed the Recipe

It’s said that a Baptist preacher invented bourbon after storing whiskey in barrels that got charred by a fire. State officials say there isn’t any truth to that idea.

By 1794, there were already 500 distilleries operating in the state. Most of them got to work relatively tax-free until the Civil War, except for a War of 1812 tax.

You can make bourbon almost anywhere with the right ingredients. If you don’t get your spirits from Kentucky, what are you actually drinking?

Books That Share the Real Stories About American Cowboys

When you think about the Wild West, what comes to mind? It is a set of stories about cowboys, Native Americans, gangs, sheriffs, and the occasional gold rush for many people.

It’s one of the most romanticized eras of American history. If you look at what happened in the late 1800s, it’s also about two decades of homesteading that doesn’t fit the fantastic tales Westerns offer.

If you want to know about the real stories of American cowboys, here are the books you’ll want to read.

1. Lonesome Dove

Although there are some fantastical elements in this story, it has everything from cattle drives to riverboat gamblers. It’s one of the few stories that paint an overview of the myth while keeping the people real and flawed.

2. Legends of the Fall

This collection of three novellas is one of the best stories of cowboys in the Wild West that you can find. The author uses an omniscient view that shows a lifetime of trials (and sometimes tragedy) that families encountered after moving West.

3. Appaloosa

If you want to catch some authentic dialogue from a Wild West marshal, you’ll want to pick up this book to read. It’s a classic tale of a lawless town with new lawmen providing some cover. You’ll get a feel for the authentic environment without everything getting blown out of proportion.

4. Desert Solitaire

This non-fiction book delivers a tribute to the American west, including all of the wild places you can find in the southwestern states. It’s written by a ranger who served at Arches National Park, delivering an honest commentary on what it means to live on the other side of the Rocky Mountains.

5. Cowboy Life: Reconstructing an American Myth

This 1975 novel is a landmark study on the legendary role of the American cowboy in the Wild West. It follows the daily duties of what this life was like in the Great Plains from the 1860s to about 1900, including a discussion about how Lonesome Dove and other stories influence modern perceptions about it.

What are some of your favorite cowboy stories that you’d recommend?

The Bloody History of Texas Chili

Texas chili is one of those dishes that people tend to love or hate. Numerous recipes have developed over the years, some with meat and others without, creating a spicy soup-like dish with beans, peppers, corn, and other vegetables.

This dish’s popularity is so strong that it has spent over four decades as Texas’s state dish despite the region’s love of barbecue.

What many do not know about chili is that it has a remarkably bloody history.

Chili Was Served in Texas in the 1860s

The first chili dishes were introduced by women called “Chili Queens” in San Antonio. During the 1860s, they provided these meals in the Military Plaza to soldiers operating in the area.

You could also find chili stands in Houston and Galveston, delivering the combination of dried cumin and peppers with tamales. Local laborers began to see it as a quick and filling meal, especially when they realized that beans went well.

If you go back even earlier, Mexican families served spicy dishes out of the slums and hovels around Texas. Some writers during the time described the house-based restaurants as serving a plate with “a fiery pepper that bites like a serpent.”

The original recipe was red pepper, peas, beef, and gravy for chili con carne in San Antonio. A newspaper article from the time says that “they always have enough to go around, for no stranger, no matter how terrific a durned fool he is, ever calls for a second dish.”

Then they say you can’t put water in him fast enough with a “steam engine hose.”

Why Is the History of Texas Chili “Bloody?”

Although laborers enjoyed chili on a lunch break, much like we want to visit a taco truck today, this dish served as a simple military recipe that could be taken almost anywhere.

If it was cold outside, soldiers could eat the chili to get warmer. It was filling, satisfying, and something to provide energy for a battle to come.

There’s also the history of San Antonio to consider. It could be argued that no other community in the United States has seen as much conflict.

Whatever the case may be, you’ll find that modern chili is still as tasty as its predecessor recipes.

Every War Fought on American Soil

If you want to document every war fought on American soil, the first step in that process is to define “war” and “location.”

Are we talking about only the mainland United States, or do territories and possessions also count?

Does a single battle count when documenting these wars, or must it be a continued conflict for it to get counted?

You’ll find several definitions online that create different lists. When you want the definitive count for every war fought on American soil, you’ll get eight.

List of the Wars Fought on American Soil

Here is the generally accepted list of the eight wars that were fought on American soil. Although these battles weren’t exclusive to the United States only, they did have actions within the country’s borders.

  1. The Revolutionary War
  2. The War of 1812
  3. The Civil War
  4. The Mexican-American War
  5. The French and Indian War
  6. World War II (Pacific Theater and Oregon Bombing)
  7. King Philip’s War (Before the U.S. became a recognized country)
  8. Queen Anne’s War (Also before the U.S. was a country)

Several other conflicts that took place on American soil are considered “wars” by some historians. Here is a look at the disputed list of disputes that could be added to the overall index.

  • Cherokee-American Wars
  • Second Pennamite War
  • Northwest Indian War
  • Battle of Sitka
  • Tecumseh’s War
  • First and Second Seminole War
  • Winnebago War
  • Black Hawk War
  • Texas Revolution
  • Missouri Mormon War
  • Aroostook War
  • Dorr War
  • Milwaukee Bridge War
  • Bald Hills War
  • Pyramid Lake War
  • Black Hills War
  • Nez Perce War
  • Ghost Dance War
  • World War I (Ypiranga, Black Tom, Kingsland, Attack on Orleans)

If you include the generalized “War on Terror” that started in 2001, the September 11 attacks on New York City, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 would also make this list. Numerous blogs centered on the theme of past and present geo-political tensions and issues are available online.

American Novels That Wonderfully Encapsulate the Immigrant Story

Although the American story went through some stops and starts in the past four years, it is still one of the world’s most significant cultural melting pots.

You can find people from virtually every corner of the planet finding their way to the United States to make a new life for themselves and their families.

These fantastic American novels work to encapsulate those stories in unique and touching ways.

What Are the Best American Immigration Novels?

1. Behold the Dreamers

This novel introduces the reader to a Cameroonian family where the husband becomes a chauffeur for an executive at Lehman Brothers. When things fall apart because of the Great Recession, you’ll find that the drama creates a beautiful story about perseverance, love, and grace from an authentic American perspective.

2. Americanah

You’ll find one of the best contemporary characters in American immigration literature in this story. It follows a Nigerian woman who comes to the United States on a scholarship. Her significant other encounters troubles with government policies, so you’ll get a frank take on what people face in today’s world.

3. The Book of Unknown Americans

What makes this novel a must-read item is its structure. Instead of following one story, you’re getting to know several voices who all speak in the first-person to you. It’s a place where you can see blatant racism, hate, and hope – all on the same page.

4. Ha Jin

This story introduces us to Nan Wu, who came to the United States after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. After making America their permanent home, it becomes a story about one person’s search for meaning and a place in this world. How can you identify with your culture while living in a different country?

What are some of your favorite books about immigration that you’ve picked up to read over the past year?

What Makes the Boston Accent So Unique?

The Boston accent is unique in the United States because of its phonological characteristics. You’ll hear different vowel sounds, especially in the centering diphthongs, that make it more nasal and with additional short “a” sounds compared to others.

Any words that have “ar” together in them create the classic example of the Boston accent. Instead of say, “car,” you’d hear someone say, “cah.” If you were headed to the park with the kids for the day, you’d go to the “pahk.”

This accent started in the early 20th century, but it seems to be retreating with the younger generation. Although you can still hear it in the city’s older neighborhoods, the change is getting closer to a NYC accent instead.

The Pronunciation Is Over 400 Years Old

Although the city has been speaking with the Boston accent for about a century, the phonetics behind the words are over 400 years old. It’s called “non-rhotic” pronunciation, dating to the time when the first settlers came from Europe.

During the 17th century in England, it was considered a rustic part of the English language to omit the “R” sounds from most words. It’s not considered a prestige feature, but the city of Boston is who led the way in that perspective.

The removal of “R” sounds wasn’t limited to the spoken word. When you review documents from the 17th century throughout Massachusetts and upper New England, you’ll find most words had the letter removed. That means people named “George” had their names document as “Geoge.”

That’s why you can find George Washington documents that say “Geoge Washington.”

It’s not only the phonetics that set the Boston accent apart from others. You can find the city using British slang for some terms, such as “rubbish” instead of saying “trash.”

You can also engage in a fun conversation about whether you’re having soda, pop, or Coke when you need a carbonated beverage.

Cities That Celebrate Easter Like None Other

Easter celebrates several cultural moments simultaneously. It’s a time when we embrace spring, look for renewal, and when Christians look to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Although everyone celebrates Easter (or Resurrection Sunday) a little differently, some cities go all-out on their efforts to have fun.

Lingering COVID-19 restrictions might change some festivals and celebrations in 2021, but you can still find some ways to have fun in the way you prefer at these destinations.

Best Cities for Celebrating Easter

1. New York City

When you think about Easter, you might see gift baskets, flowers, and brunch in your future. That’s why NYC almost always ranks as the best place to celebrate this holiday. You’ll find more chocolate and candy stores here per capita, along with numerous egg-hunting events to enjoy.

2. Chicago

You’ll find people coming out in droves to enjoy the city’s Easter egg hunts each year. You’ll find several holiday traditions waiting for you here, along with some of the more religious tones to the day celebrated downtown and along the lakefront.

3. Cincinnati

You’ll find more churches per capita in this city celebrating the Easter holiday than in almost any other destination in the United States. Only Birmingham and St. Louis rank higher. Although the look and feel are closer to something traditional and less organized, you’ll still find lots of opportunities to spend time with your family.

4. Orlando

You’d want to come to this city for a warm-weather Easter if your city gets stuck in a cold pattern. You’ll find lots of gift shops, tourist attractions, and brunch destinations to enjoy during your stay. There are also all of the theme parks to try now that the COVID restrictions are slowly easing.

5. Las Vegas

If your Easter traditions involve fine dining and a lovely walk outside, you’ll appreciate what this city offers. You can find almost any chocolate or candy here, and there are lots of activities for the kids to enjoy.

Where do you like to do as part of your Easter holiday traditions?