Too Many Cooks: Your Favorite "Summer in the USA" Food

July  4, 2014

You'll be hearing from the staff at Food52 in Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more.

Homemade Burger Buns on Food52

It's very possible that you will listen to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” at least once, if not on repeat, over the Fourth of July weekend. And you may also devour your favorite summertime staples; this fair nation certainly has some amazing, wacky, and often unhealthy summer food traditions (corn dogs come to mind). The thought of summertime in America can conjure up all sorts of food memories: boardwalk snacks, state fair desserts, and beach lunches, to name a few. So we asked our Food52 staffers to travel down memory lane and tell us:

What foods mean "Summer in the USA" to you?

Do you look back fondly on giant cones of soft serve or funnel cakes galore? Tell us in the comments!

Shop the Story

Peach Tart on Food52

Amanda: I think of ripe, dark plums, my mother's peach pie, and the taste of lake water.

Talia: As a Canadian, I'm going to have to state the obvious: hot dogs with lots of mustard. “Summer in the USA” also reminds me of lobster rolls and fried clams, though I think the 6-hour drive from Montreal to Maine, squished between two pre-teen brothers, added a heavy layer of amazing to those two dishes. As for the sweet side of things, Choco Tacos were the gold standard of dessert at my camp. 

More: Upgrade your hot dogs with fake sauerkraut relish.

Hot Dog on Food52

Merrill: Summer in the USA makes me think of watermelon Jolly Ranchers, orange juice ice pops, lobster with butter and corn, tomato and brie pasta, and icebox cake.

More: Make your own icebox cake -- without a recipe.

Danny: On hot summer days, all the neighborhood kids would hang out at the steps and play boxball, and the only interruption would be when Mister Softee came around. “Double-cone-vanilla-with-rainbow-sprinkles, pleeeaaaase!! Thanks Mommy!”

Ice Cream Sandwiches on Food52

Hillary: Really crappy Hood ice cream sandwiches (the kind where the cookie sticks to your fingers). 

Marian: Every year, for our magic company's Fourth of July cookout, my mom would make fruit pizza with cream cheese for "sauce," with appropriately colored berries in the appropriate locations. My sister and I would decorate our bikes with streamers, ride the two miles to said cookout, and sit under the shade eating grilled steak off paper plates while Dad played chess. Sometimes there was volleyball.

Grilled Steak on Food52

Catherine O.: I remember crab feasts, followed by a trip to Dairy Queen for a vanilla cone dipped in chocolate.

More: Learn how to correctly crack a crab.

Posie: Once or twice a summer, during a phase when my dad attempted to grow strawberries, my mom would make us French fries (tossed hot with sea salt in a big brown paper bag) and strawberry milkshakes -- but we had to churn the ice cream first.

Jersey Ketchup on Food52

More: Add some old-school ketchup to your French fries.

Peter: I’m reminded of frozen Charleston Chews from the snack bar at the community pool. You'd whack them on the table (still in the wrapper) to break them into bite-sized pieces.

Catherine L.: I definitely think of Otter Pops, as well as vanilla soft serve, dipped (yes, literally rolled) in rainbow sprinkles. The sprinkles had to cover the entire surface area of the ice cream, or I wouldn't eat it.

Tell us: What foods mean "Summer in the USA" to you?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Pegeen
I put chocolate chips in 95% of the things I make and am a strong proponent for lunch dessert.


AntoniaJames July 5, 2014
Homemade peach ice cream, made with dead ripe, dripping-down-your-chin fruit, hand cranked on a sweltering summer day, preferably served after a dinner of grilled burgers, just-picked corn and string beans, and fat, juicy warm-from-the-vine tomatoes. (I had the best childhood imaginable.). ;o)
Pegeen July 4, 2014
Lobster rolls, clam chowder, boiled crabs caught that day - nothing makes anything more delicious than when you've participated in cooking or catching it!