America’s birthday. These days I find it hard to celebrate anything about the U.S.A. I think to myself, what is there to celebrate about climate change denial, inadequate health care, wars on women, wars on immigrants, wars on everyone, mistrust, and denial? When we wear red, white and blue are we standing for the us first mentality? More importantly, are we standing for an us that only includes a small group of those who actually live in this country? Are we standing for all of the exclusion, the hurt, the external borders separating us from other countries, the internal borders separating us from each other? You wonder if America has become synonymous with pain, if by celebrating this place you are celebrating hurt. When it seems that any policy, any large scale change is impossible, do you just succumb to the hurt? You might decide to not celebrate the Fourth of July at all.
But then you surround yourself with people making positive changes by focusing on the little spheres, no matter how small, where they have control. In their own communities, in their own sub-communities, in their own families. Not by screaming, not by crying, just by focusing on what they can control. Because isn’t that all we can do? Focus on our communities, on our own little spheres?
You work with a group of students and professors building a college garden from the ground up, sculpting a space where the often disconnected left-wing, dreamer college students and midwestern community members can all come together around a common goal: to learn about gardening and promote a more just, sustainable food system.
You work the petting zoo at a local farmer’s pizza night fundraiser, raising money for her non-for-profit that gives CSA shares to food-insecure community members. A little girl at the petting zoo teaches you all about mermaids and you learn that anyone could be a mermaid. She could be a mermaid. You could be a mermaid. No one would know until you started swimming.
You go “home” to your parents house for a weekend to visit your crazy family (but mostly your dog), and realize you sometimes think they’re aliens, they almost always think you’re an alien, but you’re each others’ aliens, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Your little cousin tells you how much she loves science and basketball.
At the farmers’ market, a mother holds the hand of her little boy who sports a sparkly, pink t-shirt, and Oshkosh short-shorts. She lets him decide which oatmeal bread to buy, among other things.
The local grocery store donates five containers of vegetable starts to your garden.
You call your parents to wish them a happy 28th anniversary.
You host a garden potluck.
You bring freshly- harvested zucchini over to the neighbors, sparking a conversation about food access in your community.
You go on a road trip to a music festival in Milwaukee with two of your best friends, have honest conversations about how fast college has gone, what you learned during your semesters abroad, how you’ve changed. You join two older women who are doing some type of bohemian spiritual dance during a folk concert at the music festival. You drink one-too-many Summer Shandy and tell your friends you MUST find those women again. You lose your friends while spiritually dancing with two older women, but it’s all good because you find each other again, and realize that even drunk on one-too-many Summer Shandy, your friends will always have your back. It’s summer, Lake Michigan is glistening, local craft beer tastes so sweet, the next folk band does an amazing cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon, you make new friends and realize it’s been a while since you’ve let loose.
And then you wake up on the fourth of July and you go on a run through your little, rural Iowa town. You wave at fellow runners, biking families, parents pulling their children along on little tricycles and buggies with red white and blue banners. You remember that you still have swiss chard and zucchini in your fridge from last weeks harvest, and fresh peaches from the farmers’ market. So you celebrate in the best way you know how, by making chard and zucchini crepes, topped with hearty greek yogurt, toasted nuts, and a drizzle of honey, with sweet Iowa peaches on the side.
You move out to your front porch to write and eat good food. Your belly and heart filled with the peace of this quiet Midwestern, midsummer’s day.
You think that celebrating something doesn’t have to mean you’re completely happy with how it looks right now. But maybe you’re hopeful for how it will look someday.
So here’s a recipe for some celebratory, green crepes. Happy birthday, America.
Celebratory Summer Chard and Zucchini Crepes
Makes one large crepe
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup oats
1/2 cup almond milk (or plant milk of choice)
1 tablespoon coconut oil (more for frying)
1 large handful fresh chard (spinach would work as well)
1 small zucchini, grated
Place all ingredients, with the exception of the zucchini, in a blender and blend until smooth and green (this can also be done in a bowl with an immersion blender).
Add grated zucchini to the batter and stir until integrated.
Heat a frying pan on medium heat and add a pinch of coconut oil.
Once oil is melted, pour batter onto the pan. Fry for about 2 minutes, until the pancake is golden on the bottom and can be flipped easily (I use two spatulas to flip without breakage!).
Fry until pancake is golden.
Place on a plate to cool. Top with two large dollops of greek yogurt, sprinkle with any nuts and seeds you have on hand (I chose toasted almonds, sesame seeds, and chia seeds), drizzle with honey, and enjoy your yummy celebration!
Note: This recipe is pretty versatile! You can really use any leafy greens you have on hand, and if you don’t have zucchini, just go without! You can sub almost any type of flour you have on hand, just be careful about the proportion. I have also enjoyed these crepes spread with goat or feta cheese and figs, and always, always, with that drizzle of honey!
Happy Fourth of July, everyone!