All across America, on the 3rd Monday of February, banks are closed and stores are open with huge sales all in honor of Presidents Day. Presidents Day, a Federal Holiday, was established to acknowledge the birth of two great American Presidents born in February. Right? Nope, that would be wrong.
Like most of us, I’ve come to accept the 3rd Monday in February as a holiday known as Presidents Day. Turns out, legally speaking, it’s not Presidents Day at all and has nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
Let’s start with the fact that America has been celebrating Washington’s birthday since becoming a Nation. Public celebrations began while George Washington was still president. His birthday became an official holiday in 1885, when President Chester Arthur signed a bill making Washington’s Birthday a Federal Holiday. It was the first time America acknowledged a person with a Holiday. There has been only one other person honored with a Federal Holiday, and that is Martin Luther King Jr.
Once upon a time, Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12) and Washington’s Birthday (February 22) were acknowledged independently. Then in 1968, the passage of a piece of legislation known as the Uniform Holidays Bill moved the observations of three existing Federal Holidays (Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day) from fixed calendar dates to designated Mondays, while establishing a new holiday, Columbus Day, also to be observed on a Monday. (While Columbus Day bears his name, it’s not about Columbus but about the mistaken belief in his “discovery” of America. He didn’t, but as a result of his “discovery” it opened up the New World to European exploration). The changes in holiday observations were made to create more three-day weekends for Government Employees. Eventually Veterans Day was returned to November 11 rather than a Monday out of historical respect for the date itself.
Since Lincoln’s birthday was never an actual Federal Holiday, it was never taken into consideration. While we refer to the third Monday in February as Presidents Day, linking both Washington’s birthday and Lincoln’s birthday to a single holiday, it’s really just Washington’s Birthday on the law books. Although the idea of officially combining the two has been floated around in the past, such a resolution has never made it out of the thought stage. So now I know, this isn’t Presidents Day in celebration of two men. We’re all celebrating Washington’s Birthday.
And one more thing, by changing Washington’s Birthday to the third Monday in February, we have made it impossible to celebrate George’s birthday on his actual birthday. February 22 can never fall on the 3rd Monday in February. The best we can hope for is February 21.
So Happy Birthday Mr. President.
Baked Pork Chops with Stuffing
3 thick-cut Pork Chops
Seasoning Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1-1/4 cups Chicken Stock
1-1/2 teaspoons Poultry Seasoning
2 teaspoons Dried Onion Flakes
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1 box Stove-top Pork Stuffing Mix
Heat oven to 350-degrees. Sprinkle pork chops with seasoning salt and pepper. In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork chops; cook 4 to 6 minutes, turning once, until browned on both sides. Remove pork chops from skillet.
In same skillet, heat stock with poultry seasoning and onion flakes; bring to boiling. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add contents from stuffing mix; toss until moistened. Spoon into ungreased 2-quart glass baking dish. Arrange pork chops over stuffing. Cover with foil.
Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until pork chops are no longer pink in center.
While pork chops bake, make Broccoli with Cheese Sauce.
Steamed Broccoli with an Onion-Cheese Sauce
16 oz Fresh Broccoli
1/4 Yellow Onion
1 cup Medium or Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Flour
1 cup Milk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
Steam broccoli until tender-crisp, or place broccoli in a re-sealable plastic bag. Poke several vent holes in bag, microwave on high 4 or 5 minutes or until tender-crisp.
Shred enough cheese from an 8 oz block to measure 1 cup. Shredding your own cheese will give a cheese that is silky-smooth when melted.
Heat butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Sauté onions until tender and translucent, about 3 minutes. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, whisk in milk. Return to heat, season with salt and pepper. Cook until mixture thickens and beginning to boil. Remove from heat. Add cheese and stir until smooth.
Place broccoli in a serving platter or serving bowl. Pour cheese sauce over steamed broccoli and serve.