U.S. Presidents Day, officially known as Washington's Birthday, is a federal holiday in the United States and is celebrated on the third Monday of February. In 2010, Presidents Day falls on February 15, which is today if you hadn’t noticed!
Banks close, but the stock exchange is open, the mail doesn't come and school kids take off to honor past presidents. Truthfully it's our most meaningless holiday.
Our other national holidays still maintain their original purposes even though they, too, are often ignored or seen as an opportunity for shopping or a chance to go on the lash. Labor Day makes sense, although relatively few bother to think about the role of the working class as we head for the Hamptons, lake or seashore for the last hurrah of the summer.
There was a time when we stopped everything to honor George Washington. The father of our country deserved that. Then we added a day for Abraham Lincoln. He at least preserved the union that Washington sired. Are all the other presidents just as worthy?
A few years ago we merged the two holidays into one. Fiscal conservatives applauded since the change gave government employees one less day off. The public found it eliminated confusion about bank closures and mail delivery. For parents it meant the kids stayed in school another day.
Of course the government workers wanted the two holidays celebrated on a Friday and the next Monday, making it a four-day weekend. Instead, they settled for a three-day holiday since Presidents Day always falls on the third Monday in February. Perhaps, fittingly, it can never occur on the actual birthday of Washington or Lincoln.
The change has made the holiday pointless, except for retailers and ad men. Presidents Day has become a major marketing tool. Advertisers for virtually everything roll out their annual sales pitch tied to the holiday. From cheery ads, Abe and George imply that it's patriotic to buy television sets for a penny. Tires, mattresses and foreign-made cars, although not so much with the Toyota this year, sell at bargain-basement prices as a tribute to our heroes. Commercialism has cheapened the day.
If you think that I am bitter because I have to work, you may be right!
Shrimp Curry a la Zephyr Wright
Zephyr Wright was both maid and cook for President Lyndon Johnson.
Leonard H. Marks, director of the U.S. Information Agency during the Johnson administration, tells this story about how she may have influenced his work on civil rights reform.
"Many say that Lyndon, because he came from the South, didn't believe in civil rights. Lady Bird had two people as hired help, Zephyr and Sammy Wright.
Zephyr was the maid and cook, and Sammy was the chauffeur. At one of the luncheons I attended before Johnson became president, Zephyr was serving when Lyndon told her that she and Sammy should get ready to drive to Austin. The family would join them later.
She said, "Senator, I'm not going to do it." There was silence.
She said, "When Sammy and I drive to Texas and I have to go to the bathroom, like Lady Bird or the girls, I am not allowed to go to the bathroom. I have to find a bush and squat. When it comes time to eat, we can't go into restaurants. We have to eat out of a brown bag. And at night, Sammy sleeps in the front of the car with the steering wheel around his neck, while I sleep in the back. We are not going to do it again."
LBJ put down his napkin and walked out of the room. Later, when Johnson became president and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law Zephyr was there. Johnson motioned to her, gave her the pen that he used to sign the bill. He said, "You deserve this more than anybody else."
Shrimp Curry a la Zephyr Wright
(Makes 8 servings.)
2 pounds raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
5 tablespoons butter
½ cup minced onions
6 tablespoons flour
2 ½ teaspoons curry powder
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
1 chicken bouillon cube, dissolved in 1 cup boiling water
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Steam shrimp until done — approximately 5 minutes or until pink.
Sauté onions in melted butter until tender.
Stir in flour, curry powder, salt, sugar and ginger.
Dissolve bouillon cube in water.
Gradually combine bouillon and milk with onion and spice mixture, stirring until thickened.
Add cooked shrimp and lemon juice, cooking only enough to heat through.
Serve over rice.