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July fourth, the day of the year when everyone in America temporarily turns into Sean Hannity, is bit of a minefield for vegetarians like myself. According to our critics (read: grandmothers) we aren't just the usual malnourished, misguided hippies; on this day, we lack patriotism as well as protein. On the great American landscape of grated iron, burgers are the stars and hot dogs the stripes.
Most vegetarians will, reasonably, just bring a bit of grillable meatless product for themselves. But showing up with a veggie burger tucked under your arm can send unintented messages: it sets you apart from the burger-chomping celebrations, declaring you as unwilling to take part.
A vegetarian on the Fourth of July has got to do better, and that means bringing something everyone can enjoy, not just you and the significant other you guilted into sharing your dietary lifestyle. Potato salad doesn't count: Independence Day is about grilling, and it certainly isn't about salad. The good news is that just about everything tastes good cooked over a grill, and some things taste so good they may make a few meat-eaters forget about the burgers altogether.
If you're willing to cross the border to our brother among independence-winning new world nations, Mexican food can save the day. Tamales, doughy treats grilled in a corn husk, are perfect for a barbecue. (The shell, which is discarded, also saves you the trouble of wondering if your meat-free dinner just spent twenty minutes stewing in a layer of greasy cow fat.) My recipe uses a grilled pepper salsa so good you might consider making enough to let other guests spread it on their burgers and hot dogs.