Washington, DC this weekend was a city of magical realism. We caught a glimpse of a pink dragon going up 14th Street with a merry band of revelers on board. A gaucho on a horse brought traffic to a crawl on my street. I suppose when the going gets tough, the tough think magically.
Every year the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, DC creates its “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) altar. Today was their open house. The altar was dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution.
This was the first year I actually did some “Day of the Dead” commemorations. In fact, I can see with time, “Dia de los Muertos” will become part of the fall celebrations and a more meaningful day of remembrance.
Our Favorite Chefs group met a week ago for our “In the Kitchen with Frida Kahlo and Diana Kennedy: Day of the Dead Potluck.” I’ve had Diana Kennedy’s The Essential Cuisines of Mexico for years, but never had the nerve to try one of her recipes. I was told they were difficult to follow or find ingredients. I selected the Dulce de Camote, a sweet potato puree with chopped dried fruit (candied orange and lemon peels, apricots, pineapple, gold and Thompson raisins), and a 1 ounce shot each of tequila and dark rum. “Camote” means sweet potato. However, one of my friendly potluck chefs said “camote” also means “fool” or “idiot.” After tasting a spoonful of the sweet potato mixture, I see what she means.
The Dulce de Camote has to be prepared at least 3 days prior to serving. It spends a lot of time in the refrigerator. Diana Kennedy says it can be eaten up to one year if you keep it in the freezer. Preparation required a lot of organizing on my part. That means another whirlwind tour of the tri-state region to collect ingredients especially the candied orange and lemon peels which can be purchased at La Cuisine in Alexandria, VA. Of course, you can make these yourself. All you need is fruit and sugar; but I was pressed for time. I’m giving La Cuisine some play because it’s a wonderful store and Diana Kennedy did shop there once according to the sales person.
Because Diana insists Mexican hot chocolate be prepared in a special clay pot, my sister ordered one and a molinillo (frother) from the Dean & Deluca on-line catalog. If you average it out, it’s about the price of a Starbucks tall special drink for each of us.
Diana Kennedy is to Mexican cooking what Julia Child was to French cooking. Both were introduced to these cuisines by their husbands whose work took them abroad. We added Frida Kahlo to the menu theme just because she is such a fascinating person and artist. Plus Frida was born in and adored her native Mexico. Diana Kennedy is originally from the UK.
We brought memories of our loved ones who were once with us but have now joined the ancestors. I wore a necklace owned by my cousin Karen. She had a great eye for style and was one of those people who loved new experiences.
The week of the potluck, NPR aired an interview with Diana Kennedy. You can listen to it here.
Here’s a slide show and menu (below). I think the ancestors would be proud.
Pechugas de Pollo con Rajas (Chicken Breasts w/ Chilies)
Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce
Hongos en Salsa Verde Estilo Queretaro (mushrooms in green sauce)
Chiles Rellanos con Queso ( Stuffed Chiles with Cheese) – our hostess learned this from another hostess during a trip to Mexico
Appetizers and Sides
Arroz con Zanahoria y Chayote ( Rice with Carrot and Chayote)
Tortillas (bought, not handmade)
Vegetable dish; a zucchini one ( Mexican version of Rattitiouli)
Day of the Dead orange bread
Dulce de Camote (Sweet Potato Dessert)
Torte De Cielo=”cake of heaven” (almond sponge cake)
Mexican hot chocolate – Diana Kennedy insists this be made in a clay container.
Agua Fresca De Flor De Jamaica (Jamaica Flower Water)
Spanish red wine selected
If the National Mall is considered the “prime time” for rallies, then Comedy Central was not ready. I can’t say what happened, what was funny, or what was what on the stage where Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert MC’d because I couldn’t SEE or HEAR anything.
Since there was no way to get past the wall of people heading towards the Mall area, I had to go to the back of the stage, where it was pretty quiet near the production trailers and the limos parked in back. Note the word “quiet.” All the noise was on the Mall. Fortunately, I did hear the strains of the national anthem which was sung quite well by….I have no idea, because I couldn’t see anything. I did sneak a peek of the teleprompter facing the stage. Gee, it sounds funnier than it reads I guess.
There were only two Trinitrons on each side of the stage. Were they expecting 500 people and not tens of thousands? A television monitor was set up in a tent behind the stage and limos to handle “overflow.” If you weren’t within 100 yards of a giant Trinitron, you probably saw very little. I eventually squeezed my way to the south west side of the Mall. By then I could see a little bit of Ozzy Osbourne and Jon Stewart on one of the monitors, and the O’Jay’s singing “Love Train.” And I heard it too.
Overall, considering the size of the crowd and the lack of community organizing to move people around, there was a sanity to the madness. I’m sure the yelling behind closed doors will start next week when the city unpacks its figures for crowd control, transportation rerouting, street closings, and the four people who fell to the bottom of the Metro entrance because the escalator couldn’t sustain that many passengers.
Wish I had more glowing reflections of the event. A few interesting signs were carried around. Some people showed up in Halloween costumes, or maybe not. For me, the crowd provided most of the entertainment. Comedians do better on small stages. Rallies do better with more community organizing.
The President’s Weekly
The President did have his one-on-one with Jon Stewart in a smaller venue, but also had his weekly closeup to in anticipation for the day after November 2nd…and after the recounts.
Whatever the outcome on Tuesday, we need to come together to help put people who are still looking for jobs back to work. And there are some practical steps we can take right away to promote growth and encourage businesses to hire and expand. These are steps we all should be able to agree on – not Democratic or Republican ideas, but proposals that have traditionally been supported by both parties.
And for readers in the U.S., eclectique916.com asks you to
VOTE! NOVEMBER 2ND
The Historic Charleston City Market has an interesting story as well as an interesting entrance: the Daughters of the Confederacy Museum. Sweet grass basket makers set up their stands right at the entrance. I asked one of the basket makers about the African American history of the market. Apparently, prior to Emancipation, enslaved Africans sold their home grown produce and crafts in this long brick building, earning money for themselves. This is separate from the Old Slave Market where people were auctioned until 1863. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to visit.
Earlier this year someone told me the art of making sweet grass baskets was dying out because the next generation had no interest in the craft. Well, after talking to a few people here, that’s not true, yet the threat still looms not because of the lack of interest, but the lack of materials. Real estate development is rolling over the lands that produce the sweet grass. Sweet grass is primarily gathered at no expense to the basket maker. Granted, these baskets sell for hundreds of $$$ and more today, but the time involved in the making limits the inventory. Perhaps the green movement and environmentalists can step in to keep the sweet grass growing. For me, I’m relieved there’s no threat for lack of interest.
For the culinary portion of this visit, read the blog at eatonvillerestaurant.com/blog.
Eclectique916 is in Charleston, SC y’all guest blogging this grand culinary tour led by Eatonville Restaurant’s new chef (it’s a company secret), and restauranteur Andy Shallal. You can read the updates of “Food Stories: In the Kitchen” at www.eatonvillerestaurant.com/blog. It’s like creating a game board — “Mystery Chef.”
Photo: Chocolate Pudding at Hominy Grill. Click on photo to go to the restaurant website.
Locomotion at the Kennedy Center
I saw Jennifer Nelson this weekend at the Arena Stage Home Coming Day brunch and ribbon cutting for the new Mead Center for American Theater. Jennifer is at Ford’s Theater heading special programs. People may know her for penning the Elizabeth Keckly walking tour led by Mary Todd Lincoln’s African American dress designer, herself.
This week through October 31, the Kennedy Center presents “Locomotion” adapted by Jacqueline Woodson from her children’s book of the same title. The play is directed by Jennifer Nelson. “Locomotion” is a co-commission between the Kennedy Center with the Orlando Repertory Theatre. The play is for ages 9 and up.
Here’s the description:
Ever have a lot to say, but can’t get the words out? That’s the problem confronting Lonnie Collins Motion, a kid who’s so full of energy that everybody calls him Locomotion. After experiencing some very real family tragedies, the power of poetry finally provides an outlet for expressing his feelings. Award-winning novelist Jacqueline Woodson has turned her book into an inspiring play about the journey of a boy as he moves from tragedy to hope and from losing one family to gaining a new one. Wonder at this boy’s self-discovery through words.
Tickets are $18 and available from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, DC).
Women’s Health Network Fall Benefit with Barbara Ehrenreich
You’re Invited to the NWHN’s Annual Fall Benefit
Please join us as we present the 3rd Barbara Seaman Awards for Activism in Women’s Health and celebrate 35 years of action.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
1501 14th Street N.W., Washington, DC
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Reception and Program
Guest Speaker: Barbara Ehrenreich
Barbara Ehrenreich is a nationally known author, feminist, and social critic who combines journalism and activism to spark lasting social change. Her expose of low-wage work, Nickel and Dimed, became a national best seller. She has turned her own personal experience with breast cancer into a trenchant critique of breast cancer “awareness” and other feel-good approaches to women’s health issues. Barbara first wrote about women’s health in the 1970s, when her pamphlet, Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers, was an underground sensation. As an early leader in the women’s health movement, and a leading social critique, Barbara’s remarks at the NWHN are sure to provoke, inspire and enlighten
Activist Awards: Anne Kasper and Miriam Zoila Perez
Anne Kasper has been an advocate, sociologist, researcher and public policy expert on women’s health for nearly 40 years. She brought women’s health movement strategies to her ongoing work as a leader in the struggle for health care reform. She was the director of the Campaign for Women’s Health in the 1990s and now chairs the Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Care Reform.
Miriam Zoila Perez is a reproductive right and justice activists, a writer and blogger, and a speaker on LGBTQ issues. She is an editor with the popular blog Feministing.com. Additionally, she is an organizer and advocate for Latina women, most recently in her role as the e-communications for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
The 37th Annual Washington Studies Conference
November 5 and 6
The Charles Sumner Museum and Archives
1201 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036
For information, visit historydc.org/wsc or call 202-383-1890
Each year historians, preservationists, neighborhood sages, researchers, students, collectors and fans gather to exchange more stories about Washington, DC history — from the insiders’ perspectives.