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Fourth of July Foods, Ranked by How Much They Make Me Love America

High-fructose corn syrup, phallic energy, and manic nostalgia define this great nation

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a mustard, ketchup, and topping-abundant hot dog on top of a napkin with the pattern of the american flag
‘Tis the season for red, white, blue, and gullet-busting hot dogs.
Photo: Th G/Pixabay

As American pride reportedly sinks to an all-time low, the President of the United States orders tanks into the National Mall for a $2.5 million Independence Day celebration, and activists prepare to protest the administration’s handling of a border crisis that until recently saw thousands of migrant children held in detention centers, it’s time for people across the country to fire up the grill for the most patriotic day of the year. Happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans! I wish you full stomachs, clear consciences, and a charcoal-fired passion for this great nation and all the wonderful food traditions Independence Day offers — ranked, here, by how much they make me love this land of stars and stripes:

11. Coleslaw, potato salad, and macaroni salad

These foods do not make me love America. They are cold, they are slimy, they are sour. At their core, coleslaw, potato salad, and macaroni salad are worse versions of the superior dishes they seek to replicate.

10. Deviled eggs

Read that name again. No, thank you, not in my good Christian nation!

9. Baked beans

Normally, the association with Boston, one of the cradles of colonial American civilization, would be enough to carry this baby all the way to the top of the list, but I have to be honest here: while hours of painstaking domestic labor can produce a rich pot of baked beans, the truth is that very few people are bringing that caliber of beans to the Fourth of July party their friend decided to throw at the last minute in their patch of a backyard with the grill that won’t start and the vicious mosquitoes borne from the abandoned tire filled with stagnant water in the corner of the yard. What we are left with, more often than not, is the canned, thin, watery version of baked beans, to which we can only respond, shaking our heads, “Fuck Beantown.”

a bowlful of boston baked beans with a spoon
Boston baked beans.
Photo: pixel1/Pixabay

8. Corn on the cob

The current state of grilled corn remains just what it’s always been: delicious, but hindered by the same set of long-standing challenges: 1) gnawing it without suffering immense humiliation, 2) chewing it without getting stray kernels stuck in your teeth, adding to the intense humiliation, and 3) digesting it without the pain of your body rejecting corn’s abundant insoluble fiber, completing the cycle of intense humiliation. What is the starry-eyed promise of Silicon Valley for if not fixing these inherent flaws of maize and the human body?

7. Cheap beer in red Solo cups

A Budweiser — an icon of Americana owned by, ironically, a Belgian company — will admittedly never be my first choice whenever I’m looking to crack open a cold one with the boys, but I respect the power, the intelligence, the clearance, the access, the influence, the profile, the international implications that booze in cheap red plastic cups have accrued, to the point where they’ve become a staple of any non-American “American” party abroad. In America, we don’t say, “I love you,” we say, “Let’s get wasted,” and I think that’s beautiful.

6. S’mores

Three ingredients in a recipe so simple that 10-year-olds routinely crank out a dozen of these treats unsupervised near an open flame — now that’s what I call American ingenuity.

5. Hamburgers

Salty, juicy, charred, smashed, thicc cut, flame-grilled, even the presently trendy plant-based — what is the United States without its hamburger, that foremost symbol of American cultural hegemony? I salute our grease-splattered god and its global apostle, McDonald’s.

4. Hot dogs

Like burgers, hot dogs are an American icon, but they are also uniquely inextricable from Americana-tinted nostalgia, evoking the sun-washed memories of baseball stadiums and summer trips to Coney Island. (It’s almost enough to make you momentarily forget about the cancer.) To replicate that truly American spectacle of the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, try cramming as many of these down your gullet as you can, soaking the bun in lemonade or Budweiser for ease of cramming and for flavor.

3. Fried chicken

As if fried chicken weren’t tasty enough on its own, it also makes the perfect canvas for visionary inventions like KFC’s highlighter-orange Cheetos chicken sandwich and the classic chicken-as-bun Double Down. Only in a land with such unfettered capitalism, sky-high appetites, and bountiful resources (natural and unnatural) will you see such bold feats of American culinary innovation.

2. Fruit pies

Folks, it’s cherry pie season! The tears streaming down my face taste like patriotism! God bless America and this gorgeous piece of baked handiwork, to which I pledge my allegiance:

1. Anything red, white, and blue

This category is broad enough that I can include nearly any food in our Pinterest-loving, artificial food dye-embracing nation, and by god, I will.

There are red, white, and blue charcuterie and fruit boards:

Red, white, and blue cupcakes:

Red, white, and blue strawberries:

Red white and blue potato salad, which by the virtue of its colorings has been airlifted from the bottom of this list to the top:

But best of all, the frozen treat that has haunted my dreams since childhood: firecracker popsicles, that magical blend of red-white-blue, high-fructose corn syrup, phallic energy, and manic nostalgia that defines this great nation. What can I say, I Love America.