Sunday 17 December 2017

26 ways to stop worrying about Trump and learn to love the US again

Irish-American Siobhan Brett offers a guide on how to stop worrying about Trump and learn to love the US again

Firework: Whether you don an eye-catching patriotic outfit like Katy Perry or gorge on doughnuts, embrace Americana this 4th of July
Firework: Whether you don an eye-catching patriotic outfit like Katy Perry or gorge on doughnuts, embrace Americana this 4th of July
Red cups
USA biscuit tin

America has been an independent nation since July 4, 1776, and today celebrates the holiday in a wash of red, white, blue, stars, stripes, hotdogs, ticker-tape, and swimming pool inflatables.

"The 4th" is a simple holiday and so enjoys rare universality. Growing up in two very different parts of the US - Alabama and Connecticut - the annual 4th of July parties were underscored by the many of the same things: garden parties, fireworks, rolling barbecues, heavily frosted cakes and large blue Coleman coolers filled with beer.

Since the election of President Trump in November, however, the national mood has been vulnerable to dicey. According to the results of a Pew survey released last week, America's global image has suffered dramatically since The Donald took office, with international favourability falling from 64pc to 49pc.

American pride, patriotism and love of a party, on the other hand, are difficult things to stifle. For the rest of the world, and here in Ireland, there are many delicious, edifying, and fun pieces of Americana that still merit celebration and can be enjoyed with defiant enthusiasm. Below is an alphabetised cross-section of new and old:

Anheuser-Busch The Missouri company is responsible for bringing us a multitude of varieties of America's most popular beer, Budweiser, to the wider world. If you're not into "the king of beers", you're likely to feel the very same way about its US siblings: college-age favourite Natural or "Natty" Light, or the "low carb" Michelob Ultra. Rolling Rock, a beer arguably one step up (while retaining that distinctive pale, fluffy quality), is also part of the portfolio.

Baseball caps A familiar summertime staple of GAA managers, undercover celebrities, and the sun-conscious.

Cornhole A team game played in backyards across America all summer, cornhole requires two boards or platforms with holes bored through them, set at an angle, and beanbags - pouches filled with corn, traditionally - to toss through the holes. Three points per score, one point for bags that land on the board.


Doughnuts By the dozen. Glazed, powdered, Boston cream, red velvet, chocolate, cinnamon, iced, "jelly", and, ideally, warm. An alarming influx of purveyors to Ireland in recent times affords new opportunities to taste more novel iterations.

Egg McMuffins A couple of years back, McDonald's dished up a new plan to an unsuspecting American public: all-day breakfast. Now hash browns, Egg McMuffins, and syrupy pancakes can be purchased at any hour in the chain's restaurants. Irish fans, however, must show up before 10.30am to indulge in the hard-hitting breakfast treat.

Flip cup Best played with one of the beers named above, this relay race drinking game does not require a bright, hot American day, just a kitchen table at peace with getting sticky. And some Solo cups (see below).

Grilling Join millions of Americans this evening by lighting a barbecue and slowly and smokily cooking heavily-seasoned meats. Take care not to neglect rich and elaborate side dishes, a US priority, or trimmings (or, as they say in the Deep South, "fixins").

Hamilton Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a prolific statesman. A lively biography of Hamilton published by US author Ron Chernow in 2004 inspired a multi-multi-award-winning musical of the same name in 2015. The hip hop-infused soundtrack is available online, while the sell-out show tours to London in the autumn.

Ice hockey …and baseball, and NFL, and basketball, and even "soccer": each a version of a sport with roots in an array of places now thoroughly and wholly Americanised, with enormous followings.

J-walking Or, as we refer to it here, crossing the road.

Klondike This ice cream bar, dating to the roaring 20s, is still ubiquitous in the US today. Six zillion new varieties later, the foil-wrappered original remains the best. The equivalent in Irish freezers is the humble but resilient Choc Ice.

Lemonade Martha Stewart's website offers some 20 recipes for the drink (sparkling roasted vanilla lemonade, any takers?). The easy addition of a few parts cranberry juice to a basic recipe will yield a pitcher of the spectacularly American pink variety. The additional of a few parts vodka and a sprig of thyme results in Martha's vodka-thyme lemonade.

Moneygall Travellers stopping at the Barack Obama Plaza, a ritzy petrol station forecourt on the outskirts of the ancestral home of the last US president in Co Offaly, can enjoy a slice of pizza and reflect on the once-rude health of US-Irish relations.

NPR America's answer to RTÉ continues to produce good radio, never more internationally accessible than now in the golden age of the podcast. Dip in and out of dependable programmes like the news show All Things Considered, Terry Gross's Fresh Air interviews and Planet Money, which covers the global economy, or look to other world-class public radio such as WBEZ's This American Life, or the recent true crime hit, S-Town.

Orange juice "OJ" as we know it is the product of Californian oversupply in the 1930s and a subsequent wartime push by the US Food and Drug Administration (in conjunction with the Florida Department of Citrus) to develop canned juice as a conduit for vitamin C.

Pyrotechnics Beyond the errant stray you might hear or spot from your garden, the town of Killarney, Co Kerry, will stage a fireworks display between 11pm and midnight tonight.

Quantitative easing The eurozone economy owes a debt (no pun) to the US Federal Reserve for a bold innovation in economic and monetary policy that has allowed money to be created by central banks, in effect, for injection into banking systems.

Red cups

Red party cups Available in Ireland thanks to the guile of a couple of entrepreneurs from Co Meath who had the foresight to secure European distribution rights for the cup beloved by college students everywhere in 2012.

S'mores This all-American fireside delicacy is easily improved upon with Irish components as substitute: squares of Cadbury rather than Hershey, Rich Tea biscuits rather than Graham Crackers, and Princess marshmallows rather than Kraft. If without a metal skewer, an unfurled wire hanger is more than sufficient for roasting.

The New Yorker As the weekly magazine approaches 20 years under editor David Remnick, it is enjoying increasing subscriptions and circulation. The title has lately taken on a pool of young writers who tackle diverse themes in a smart fashion. An introductory print subscription to Ireland is just $20 (€17.60) for 12 weeks, plus access to the complete online archive.

USA biscuit tin

USA biscuit tins Do we have America to thank for the sugary memories of this 1kg tin? We may not. But this box stood for a certain vision of the US, chocolate chip and lemon sandwich cookies cloaked in the promise of something exciting, if indistinct.

Vinyl The resurgent record was invented in the late 1800s by Emile Berliner, an American.

Water cooler conversation Americans gave a name to the exuberant small-talk we love to hate. (Along with water coolers themselves.)

Xerox Stuck in a stuffy office, fantasising about a rollicking game of beer pong? Consider the most banal office tasks a tribute to US engineer Gary Starkweather, who invented the laser printer in 1969.

Yams A cousin of the sweet potato, the American treatment of the treasured yam can inform those daring enough to incorporate it in a taco or a casserole, or to mimic "candied yams", a dish sometimes involving melted marshmallow that needs to be Googled to be believed.

Zydeco This little-known genre of French Creole music originating in Louisiana, a state in the American South, serves as a refreshing alternative to the cheese of bluegrass or country. Heard on Paul Simon's "Graceland" which, incidentally, is a very good 4th of July soundtrack.

Irish Independent

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