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July 4th: A primer

Independence Day traditions come from all over the globe. Here's a guide to the customs and menus of your favorite summer holiday.

July 03, 2011|Julia Gabrick | Julia Gabrick is a graduate student at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and an intern at The Times

We all know the tale: George Washington and other Continental Congress members went to a young widow, the upholsterer Betsy Ross, in May 1776 and asked her to sew the new nation's flag based on a rough design Washington showed her. According to the story, she was even bold enough to overrule Washington's six-pointed star design. Instead, she demonstrated how to cut a five-pointed one in a single cut, which would make it easier to mass produce. The final product featured 13 stars arranged in a circle along with alternating red and white stripes to represent the original Colonies. But did any of this really happen? There is no written record of Ross' involvement. Her grandson, William Canby, first told her story to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1870, explaining that he had heard it from his grandmother. He eventually backed up his account with affidavits from aged relatives. Historians remain skeptical, due to the anecdotal nature of the record. But most acknowledge that it could have happened.



An all-American tradition?

For a Fourth of July dessert, what could be better than something "as American as apple pie." But how American, really, is the nation's favorite dessert? The first appearance of anything resembling modern pies was in ancient Greece, where people enclosed meat in pastry to preserve it. Romans appropriated the recipe when they conquered the Greeks. The first written evidence of apple pie dates to a 14th century English recipe, but the first pie recipe that included sugar dates to the 16th century. European explorers or English Pilgrims brought apple seeds to the New World, allowing the pie's popularity to spread. As apple production increased in modern America, the treat became a culinary mainstay.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, August 09, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 13 Editorial Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Watermelon: A July 3 Op-Ed article on Independence Day traditions said that watermelon isn't a true fruit. Although melons are closely related to squashes and cucumbers, they are fruits.

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