Happy Independence Day everyone! For as long as I can remember, I’ve taken the United States for granted. We have civil liberties available to us that many of us forget to be thankful for. We have freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, and a free press. We have the right to bear arms, due process and civil trials by jury, no cruel and unusual punishment – these are all things that United States citizens are afforded, and we have become entitled.

We assume that we’re able to say what we want, when we want, as long as we are not causing immediate harm to another human being. But remember the parents of Amanda Knox who went to Italy for their daughter’s trial? They were frustrated with the way the  trial was going and repeated Amanda’s claims of police ill-treatment to the press. The whole family was charged with libel and slander.

Living outside of the US certainly calls into harsh relief the fact that not all people are afforded the same rights. When the Uighurs who had been held at Guantanamo Bay were up for release, the US government needed to find a place for them to go. Why? Because had they been returned to China, their original homes, they would have been executed. It would have been kept out of international media, but those individuals probably would never have been heard from again after reentering China.

Here, even freedom of assembly is not a reasonable assumption. For example, when members of the Falun Gong, a practice similar to tai chi with theraputic and spiritual aspects, joined together in Beijing, the Chinese government noticed the practice’s large following.  Falun Gong was then immediately banned. They weren’t a political group. These were grannies and business men and young moms who got together to look after their mental health and physical well-being.

An aside: I just tried to Google “Falun Gong” so I could give you more information, and the results page has been blocked by the Chinese government. For the next several searches, even if I search “zebras,” the results page still won’t be available.

So let’s take a minute to celebrate who we are and what we are allowed to be as Americans. More than Thanksgiving, today I am thankful and proud to be from the United States. I’m proud that our press can report truthfully and doesn’t receive what amount to bribes for what are essentially product placements for big brands. I’m proud that I can be agnostic, or Buddhist, or Zoroastrian and no one has the right to infringe upon my beliefs. I love that our Constitution protects us from cruel and unusual punishment and that we condemn torture practices. Even if your personal politics don’t align with today’s leadership, you have to love that you can vote to influence that leadership. If you feel your rights are being infringed upon, you can speak out, join protests, vote and make a difference. You may be thinking, “But of course!” But here and for so many others, things are not always so obvious.

In celebration of being Americans, we made some pimiento cheese. It’s very typical of the South, but it’s also something that reminds me of all of the States. For me, pimiento cheese is better than the sum of its parts – I’m not big on cheddar cheese alone or mayonnaise alone, and especially not red peppers, but together these ingredients are fantastic. On a slice of toast, on veggies, on top of your hamburger at your barbecues today. Americans too are better than the sum of their parts. We are better for being such a diverse nation, and today, I am thankful for that.

Pimiento Cheese
Adapted from What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Deborah Madison

Ingredients

16 ounces aged Cheddar cheese, yellow, or white and yellow mixed – I used extra sharp cheddar and an aged white cheddar
1 (4-ounce) jar of pimientos
2 cloves of garlic, diced finely
4 tablespoons mayonnaise, more or less
1/2  teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
Freshly ground pepper
1 sliced scallion (optional)

Preparation

1. Grate the cheese using the larger holes of a box grater or if you have a food processor, I hear that works equally well.

2. Stir in the peppers, garlic, mayonnaise, mustard, and paprika, tasting and adjusting as you go. Finally season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and add the scallion if desired.

Critic’s Comments

“Tastes like freedom.  Freedom from prepackaged congealed pimiento cheese sandwiches with hard boiled eggs and warm mayonnaise. No wait, change that to gnarly Chinese white bread club sandwiches with spam and mayonnaise. I don’t even know what they have on those things. But those club sandwiches have too many pickles.”

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