July 1998

Topsham, USA, July 4th 1998 The Fourth of July is not a day that we usually make a song and dance of here in Topsham -- let's face it, the celebration is, after all, to commemorate the early American Yanks getting shot of the Brits once and for all. Not to worry: that is all ancient history now and today there are few animosities between our nations. Yet still, it is a celebration that always seems to puzzle my British friends, just as I have never really gotten the hang of Guy Fawkes or Bonfire Night, which has less to do with the political intricacies of the Gunpowder Plot and more to do with the pagan ritual of preparing for winter.

This year the Topsham School PTA chose the Fourth of July as its theme for its annual fundraising fair. It was a great success, and raised a large amount of much needed money for our beleagured school. But apart from the fact that the children dressed in red, white and blue, and there were the odd flags and red, white and blue balloons which were released, there was not actually much of an American flavour (or flavor) to the event, which to my way of thinking is really all about celebrating the long, hot dog days of summer, cooking out during the day, eating watermelon and drinking cold beer, and in the evening repairing somewhere to watch the fireworks. I tried to do my bit, at least, by preparing a massive pot of that Fourth of July favorite, brisket of beef, slow-cooked for hours in sweet gunk, sticky and greasy, and served in a bun so that as you eat it, the filling runs down your arms and chin and makes a terrible mess. But it tastes so good, you usually don't even care...

Marc's Famous and Genuine 4th of July Brisket

2 1/2 lbs (1 kg) brisket (no other cut will do)

3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 large carrots, coarsely chopped

3 or 4 pieces of celery, coarsely chopped

1 green chili, seeded and chopped (use more chilies if you want to liven things up)

About 2 cups Heinz tomato ketchup (no other will do)

Half a bottle of smoky barbeque sauce (any sort will do)

1 cup cider vinegar


Salt and pepper to taste

Hamburger buns

Coleslaw (preferably homemade)

If you must, trim the brisket of excess fat. Leave in a whole piece. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot and gently fry the chopped vegetables. Add the meat and brown. Add the tomato ketchup, smoky barbeque sauce, vinegar, and sufficient water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to a bare simmer, and leave to slow cook for 3 to 4 hours or even longer.

Allow to cool (preferably overnight) then thoroughly defat (OK, if you like, you can leave some of the fat -- it does make it taste better). Take out the pieces of meat, discarding any cooked out fat or gristle, and shred the meatcompletely with a fork into fibrous strips. Return the shredded meat to the gooey sauce.

To serve, reheat thoroughly, and spoon generously into hamburger buns, topped with a spoonful or two of homemade coleslaw.

Wine Suggestion You gotta be kidding. A tall-neck bottle of Stroh's (I'd like to say no other will do, but in fact, plenty others will do just fine), or, if you're feeling poncey a very well chilled tumbler of White Zinfandel.


Copyright © Marc Millon 2000


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