July is the month when our bi-centennial fever may just do us in, when the epidemic of ashtrays, napkin rings, underwear, shower curtains, pendants and key chains — all emblazoned with Old Glory — will reach a tacky peak, and those who profess to be our leaders will succumb to the flatulence symptomatic of celebrations of the Fourth.

It would be tragic to give up on the patient, though, for America is a symbol of what people can do when they put their minds, bodies and souls into an ideal. We are citizens of a democracy, and despite the madness and corruption and power politics, we are a free people. Of course, we are free to sit back and numbly watch television, but that is not what those early patriots had in mind. Tom Paine, Sam Adams and Thomas Jefferson were men of high ideals and aspirations, of thought and action — and they liked adventure, too. Americans lament that there is no room for adventure anymore — but I don’t think that’s so. Many of us are now on a new kind of adventure, one that our founding fathers and mothers would fully approve of because we are using our freedom to try to create a new society, one truer to the ideals on which this country is based, infused with the spirit of God, the spirit of love.

It is often difficult, usually frustrating and seldom appreciated, but those of us who continue to live our lives faithful to our beliefs and ideals are truly patriots and lovers of freedom. We will make mistakes and there will be failures, but at least we will be able to say to our children that we tried. And if by some miracle we should ultimately succeed in devising a new order — where men and women attain their potential, where harmony between nature and our technological achievements is maintained, where the spirit of love and compassion and cooperation permeates government and economics (is that too far- fetched?), then we will have truly embarked on a great American adventure.

I offer you a favorite summer recipe of mine. Did you know that the tomato and eggplant are native to the Americas? So although this is a provincial French dish, it has an American heritage.

 

RATATOUILLE

(pronounced Ra-ta-too-ey)

1/3 c. oil (preferably olive)
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 cups peeled and quartered tomatoes
4 zucchini in ½-inch slices
1 eggplant, peeled & diced
3 green peppers, thinly sliced
salt, pepper, oregano & basil

In a deep skillet, sauté the onions and garlic until golden. Then layer each of the vegetables, seasoning with salt, pepper, oregano and basil on each layer. Cover and simmer on very low heat 35-45 minutes (or bake in covered casserole at 350° for 45 minutes). Uncover and cook it 10 minutes longer to reduce liquid.

Excellent over rice, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, and with a crisp green salad.