My mom, born in Mississippi in 1916, always called Memorial Day “Decoration Day” while we were growing up. While I knew why we celebrated Memorial Day, the idea of “Decoration Day” was a bit murky for me. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized many people literally went to cemeteries to decorate graves and remember. As fewer and fewer people are buried as years go on, this is worth tucking away in our heads.
Here’s the current scoop from TIME.com. It might surprise you.
While traditional Memorial Day rites have dwindled in many towns, they remain strong at Arlington National Cemetery. Since the 1950s, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division have placed American flags at each of the more than 260,000 graves there. During the weekend, they patrol around the clock to make sure each flag remains aloft. On the holiday itself, every year about 5,000 people turn out to see the President or Vice President give a speech and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And other Americans are encouraged to observe in a more solitary fashion. At 3 p.m. local time, according to the 2000 National Moment of Remembrance Act, which was passed to emphasize the meaning of Memorial Day, all Americans should “voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.'”
In many neighborhoods in our country, food-wise, Memorial Day is the first real celebration of summer. In the northern states, the grills might be lit for the first time, outdoor chairs washed and dried, flags raised or placed in new pots of flowers, and in Colorado, we’re planting our vegetable gardens. I know you southerners are into summer already. And you’re welcome to it!
Whatever you’re planning, it’s the time of year when berries that taste like berries are again available — even if they’re from California — and I thought it might be fun to share my top More Time favorites. Click on the More Time link above the photo — or below in the case of the beginning microwaved cheesecake photo at the top of the post. Some of the older ones might not have a printable recipe; I’m still working on that.
By the way, the strawberries below are the small, red-all-the-way-through Minnesota berries. I took this picture a few years ago and these might have been out of my own St. Paul garden. There’s nothing better than the small, sweet perennial berries from the northern mid-west. Ok, you can disagree with me, but make my sangria or one of the other fun berry recipes and enjoy your long holiday weekend. Of course we’ll begin with wine.
serves 6 — doubles easily
For non-alcoholic Sangria, sub Knutson sparkling juice Or Pomegranate Juice for the Syrah and skip both the port and simple syrup. If sangria is too sweet, add some lemon or lime juice or any sliced citrus.
3 cups Syrah or Côtes du Rhône or other big-bodied red wine
1/3 cup each: port and simple syrup at room temperature*
1/2 cup orange juice, optional
2 cups strawberries and any other spring fruit, hulled and sliced
6 sprigs fresh mint
12-16 oz club soda, sparkling water, or sparkling wine
Early in the day or the night before, mix wine, port, cooled simple syrup, oj (if using), and berries in a big pitcher. Taste and add more port and/or simple syrup if too light, dull, or sour. Refrigerate, well covered, until very cold. To serve, pour into large wine glasses over ice, garnish with a sprig of mint, and top off with a big splash of club soda, sparkling water or sparkling wine.
*To make simple syrup (so good in iced tea), combine equal parts water and white sugar in a small sauce pan. Heat to boiling, stir well, and remove from heat. Let cool completely before using. Store leftovers in a small jar with a tightly-fitted lid and use for lemonade or iced tea another day.
Need less alcohol? Skip the port or lower the amount to a tablespoon or two for flavor.
Berry Cake (Make the homemade cake or buy angel food or pound cake cake and add toppings.)
Want more great berry recipes?
Try these from a favorite post at La Tavola Marche.
Or try these 20 strawberry favorites from the NYT.