My family loves the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are a big deal, but as with many families, those holidays usually find all of us together only every other year. We especially have to share all of the nieces and nephews.
Fourth of July is another story. It is pretty much a mandatory event for me and my sisters and all of their kids. For the past 36 years, we have gathered at my parents’ beach home in Manzanita, Oregon. And we have done pretty much the same thing on the same days for all of those years.
It goes something like this.
We either take a two-day drive up the coast or fly to Portland to start the adventure. Once you get close to the coast, you start to see little flower stands by the roadside. Dahlias! Each stand has coffee cans or mason jars with freshly cut flowers in them. Five to 20 dollars a can. There is another can for the money. Purely the honor system.
I tend to buy a lot of cans and arrive at the cabin with a riot of color in my arms. You can re-create this dahlia experience at the Napa Farmers Market by visiting the Aztec Dahlia stand. While you won’t be putting money in a can, you will be able to enjoy this most beautiful and varied flower. I buy some at the market every week.
The rest of the trip is about eating.
My father and my uncle usually go fishing, and if we are lucky, they bring back fresh salmon. Take a whole salmon, filleted. Season with just some lemon, salt and pepper (of course, my father has been using Lawry’s Lemon Pepper for about 50 years), place it in a tin-foil boat and throw it on the grill. Cook until it is still pretty rare. Doesn’t get much better.
Freshway Fish in the market should be able to set you up with some wonderful salmon. A big salad and some good bread from any of the farmers market bakeries, and voila, you’re done.
The next day is about ribs. Rubbed-up baby backs on the grill with lots of corn, watermelon and potato salad. Get your just-picked corn at the market from Big Ranch Farm or Ibarra Farms. Gauchito Hill Farm has wonderful potatoes for that salad.
Finally, it’s parade day. This has become a very big deal in our little town of Manzanita. People set up their chairs along the parade route the night before. Fire trucks, hot rods, plenty of dogs and horses and flying candy. Every year, the Wood family participates in the parade dressed as a patriotic centipede of seven people. At night, we head to the beach for the fireworks. Hot dogs (you can step up your game by getting some great sausages from Contimo Provisions), s’mores and a beer or two by the campfire.
The capper for this three-day eat-a-thon is a very simple blackberry cobbler created by an old family friend. Blackberries grow wild in the neighborhood, and we might make two or three cobblers over the course of the holiday. The old hand-cranked ice-cream machine comes out and the combo is heaven. Get out a favorite cobbler recipe, buy your blackberries from Bussalachi Farm or Rodriguez Farm and perhaps throw some Bera Ranch peaches into your ice cream.
It is the same every year. It never gets old, and I doubt if it will ever change.
I’m sure you all have your traditions as well. Get thee to the farmers market and either re-create the Wood family holiday or use the bounty to create your own.
Kids at the Market: Bring your youngsters to the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday, July 2, for a hands-on crafts activity. We’ll be making clothespin butterflies, so be sure to schedule a little extra time to allow them to dry before going home. Use as accents on garden trellises and tomato cages. The bright colors attract pollinators to your garden, and the butterflies are just plain fun to make.
The Napa Farmers Market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., May through October, in the parking lot of the South Napa Century Center, 195 Gasser Drive, Napa. The third Tuesday of every month is Seniors’ Day at the market, with some vendors offering discounts to shoppers 65 and older. Ask about participating vendors at the information booth. For more market information and a schedule of upcoming events, visit NapaFarmersMarket.org or visit the market on Facebook.