If Zora were here, she might jump up on the table and dance.
Washington Post (November 16, 2009)

Crow Dance - Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Crow Dance - Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

I’m still trying to figure out the Crow Dance?

The first Food and Folklore event at Eatonville Restaurant was a big success with food, company, talk time, and spirit. The maiden launch which coincided with other Zora-themed events at the restaurant that weekend was covered by staff writer David Montgomery in the Washington Post, Monday, November 16 in the Style section – front page and back! Eatonville hosted Valerie Boyd, Zora Neale Hurston biographer, who’s introduced “Zora-head” to this social mix.

The theme for the December 9th Food and Folklore event is African American Holiday Traditions and Celebrations. Camille Giraud Akeju director of the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum will be the special guest talking about the museum’s 2008 exhibit “Jubilee: African American Celebration.” Last weekend I enjoyed lunch with Camille, Eatonville owner Andy Shallal and Eatonville executive chef Rusty Holman to talk menu, food and meaning. You just can’t talk about food without swapping stories. Food traditions seem to come from what’s readily available to the household and in season. Even I remember when oranges made an annual appearance around Thanksgiving through New Years straight from Florida. Today I see my favorite navels all year round straight from South Africa and Chile. According to Valerie Boyd, oranges were among Zora’s favorite fruits. Note: Eatonville was her childhood Florida home.

Christmas and Thanksgiving certainly have a crossover appeal with variations on the themes depending on means, region, culture, race, and denomination. I’ll never forget my first Puerto Rican Thanksgiving. No turkey. Pork shoulder.

But it’s New Years eve that seems to have significant meaning in the African American experience particularly after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing enslaved people in the U.S. It would be the law of the land at the beginning of the new year in 1863. It took a little more time for that message to get to Texas.

Is that what the church “watch night” (New Years eve) was all about?

I’ve gone into a panic about not having black eyed peas on my plate for New Years. Even Martha Stewart’s been stirring black eyed peas. Since Martha’s adopted this tradition, I have to get to the grocery store earlier than December 31st to get my stash. For years I never questioned why it’s important to have the peas on the plate or for a Black Man to be the first to walk through your door on New Years Day. I’ll have to find out before December 9 for the next Food and Folklore.

It’s BYOS – Bring Your Own Stories. Zora-heads welcomed. Listen to Zora sing the “Crow Dance” song here on the Library of Congress website of Florida folklore in the WPA collections.

Reservations required for Food and Folklore at Eatonville Restaurant; prix fix menu (see below): Email foodandfolklore[at]gmail[dot]com or call 202-332-ZORA (9672)