A Norman Rockwell Fourth of July

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The Fourth of July is soon approaching and there is no one better to emulate than the illustrator of the American dream himself: Norman Rockwell. Norman Rockwell’s illustrations of everyday life have been incorporated into our collective consciousness. He’s done portraits of presidents and American cultural icons. As an illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post, his illustrations of American life were often criticized for being saccharine and overly sentimental depictions of American ideals. Though some do not regard him as a serious painter, seeing his work as bourgeois and kitsch, his works do address issues integral to the American identity, including perhaps his most iconic body of work, Four Freedoms.

Four Freedoms was a series of paintings that served as a visual representation of the freedoms outlined by FDR in his 1943 address to Congress. The first of the series was Freedom of Speech. Freedom of Speech was inspired by a town meeting that Rockwell attended in which a man stood up to voice an unpopular opinion, depicting the first amendment right to free speech. Rockwell used his Vermont neighbors as his models for this painting, depicting the dissenter, based off of Jim Edgerton, in an Abraham Lincoln-esque manner. This painting was a commercial success and along with the other paintings in the Four Freedoms series, was used to sell war bonds and stamps which raised over $133 million for the war effort.

The recipes of Rockwell’s Independence Day menu are adapted from The Norman Rockwell Illustrated Cookbook and consists of barbecued chicken with herb butter, barbecued corn on the cob, vegetable kabobs, potato salad, and marble brownies. Though the book does not include any beverage recipes, we recommend finishing off this meal with a digestif of liberty. Whether you would like a liberal or conservative amount, it’s all up to you!

Barbecued Chicken with Herb Butter

Four servings

  • ⅓ cup of dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • ½ tsp tarragon
  • 1 3 lb chicken

Herb butter

  • ½ cup butter or margarine
  • 4 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp rosemary
  1. Combine wine, oil, lemon, onion, and tarragon. Cut chicken into eight pieces and marinate it in the wine mixture for several hours, turning frequently. Drain after marinating.

  2. To make the herb butter, place the butter, parsley, and rosemary into a small pan. Heat just enough to melt the butter. Divide into two halves. Put half of the herb butter in the refrigerator to firm up.

  3. Brush the chicken with the other half of the herb butter and cook over glowing coals, basting several times. Cook until crisp and golden.

  4. Cut the refrigerated herb butter into pats and serve on top of the chicken.


Norman Rockwell, Corn on the Cob, 1940.


Barbecued Corn on the Cob

Six servings

  • 6 ears of corn
  • Softened butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Remove husk and silk from corn and coat generously with softened butter. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap each cob in foil, twisting the ends to seal.

  2. Place on a barbecue grid over hot coals. Cook for 20 minutes, turning frequently.


Vegetable Kabobs with Seasoned Butter Sauce

Six servings

  • 2 medium zucchini with ends removed
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 12 mushrooms
  • ½ cup of butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp of parsley flakes
  • ¾ tsp of onion powder
  • ½ tsp of garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp of pepper
  1. Cut each zucchini into six chunks. Arrange zucchini, tomatoes, and mushrooms on six skewers.

  2. Pour butter into a small bowl and mix in parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, and pepper. Brush butter mixture over kabobs.

  3. Place on grill over hot coals and cook for ten minutes, turning frequently.


Potato Salad

Six servings

  • 6 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • Boiling water
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp of vinegar
  • ½ tsp of mustard
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dill seed
  • Paprika
  1. Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and reserve ¼ of the cooking liquid. Dice potatoes and add salt and onion, tossing gently.

  2. Bring reserved cooking liquid to boil and pour over potatoes and onion. Let cool at room temperature for two to three hours.

  3. Stir in vinegar, mustard, sugar, and dill seed. Finish with a sprinkle of paprika. (Note: the potato salad will be creamy.)


Marble Brownies

Sixteen servings

  • ¼ cup of butter or margarine
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup of cake flour
  • ¼ tsp of salt
  • ½ cup of nuts, chopped
  • ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 oz of unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 F.

  2. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

  3. Add in eggs and beat until smooth.

  4. Sift flour and salt together and gradually add to the wet mixture.

  5. Stir in nuts and vanilla.

  6. Divide batter in half.

  7. Pour half of the batter into an eight inch baking pan.

  8. Mix the other half with the melted chocolate and dollop over plain batter. Swirl them together.

  9. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool before cutting.


Norman Rockwell, Working on the Statue of Liberty, 1946

Abby Li

Sr. Contributor

Comments (2)

Caroline Li

Thanks for the recipes!


I've always wanted to take part in a Fourth of July celebration, the food sounds great.