Published: June 29th 2005
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Omani lunchOmani lunchOmani lunch

Said and Samira cook an Omani lunch
There were plenty of things cooking in Washington DC last week including yours truly. Our nation's capital is infamous for its summertime heat and humidity. I, along with the locals and out-of-town tourists, was overcooked, almost burned in the soaring outside temps. Food: That was a big part of what last week (June 23-27) in DC was all about.

The 39TH annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival was taking place on the National Mall. Sheltered under giant canvas tents from DC’s sweltering late June heat , Food Culture USA gave center stage to famous chefs, everyday cooks, farmers, and food lovers in general, all of whom, shared their knowledge about food.

An Edible Schoolyard display was set up with The Capitol Building as a backdrop; beans (frijoles), corn, tomatoes, herbs, cukes, sunflowers, kale, lettuce, nasturtiums and much more were all growing on the National Mall in the shadow of Smithsonian museums.

Oman (Desert, Oasis, and Sea) was another of this year’s Folklife participants. The first ever Arab country to be featured—long overdue. The Omani cooks shared their food culture of halwa (in Arabic) or halvah ( a sweet concoction of crushed sesame seeds in a honey base), coffee, camel milk
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Omani curried chicken....yummy!
and dates. Samira, Said and Chef Jean prepared an Omani lunch of curried chicken and dried fish salad. Yummy!

The Forest Service also a featured program this year, not to be left out about food, made presentations on cooking in the field, Dutch oven delights, edible wild plants and frying catfish freshly caught from a river.

A sort of Anti-Folklife Festival was going on in direct competition with the traditional Smithsonian affair. Safeway’s Barbecue Battle fenced itself off from the sidewalks and spread itself down Pennsylvania Avenue from 9th Street all the way to Freedom Plaza at 14th Street. Ominous black smoke billowed up from dangerous looking, heavy cast iron charcoal megagrills. In DC's already 90-degree plus heat, working around those Barbecue Battle grills must have been a hellish experience. Walking the barbecuers' gauntlet from 9th to 14th reminded me of a summer job I had at the Great Lake’s Steel Mill on Zug Island in Del Ray, Michigan. I could have sworn I was once again walking on the roof of a coke oven with smoke and flames blasting up along each side of me. I never did find out which grill master won the “barbecue battle.”
Los Camperos de VallesLos Camperos de VallesLos Camperos de Valles

Huasteco madness!!!!

In the evenings with all the Folklife cooking stages closed for the day and the Barbecue Battle pits still glowing red hot but “cooling off,” Los Camperos de Valles, a conjunto from Ciudad Valles in Mexico, Sones de Mexico, a Mexican-American ensemble from Chicago and Ecos de Borinquen from Puerto Rico cooked up a different kind of fun with some fantastico (Huasteco, Huapango, Corridos, Jibaro) music from Nuestra Musica: Music in Latin Culture. There WAS a lot “cooking” in DC last week.

I am in only one of the included photos. Can you find me? And by the way, the Folklife Festival will do it all over again June 30 to July 4....enjoy! As for the Battle of the Barbecues, I think they're pretty much burned out for now.

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12


Sones de MexicoSones de Mexico
Sones de Mexico

Playing up a storm. The girl could do one heck of a tapatio!
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Barbecue Battle

One of the Kings of the Grill taking a well earned breather in between BBQ battles.
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Barbecue Battle

Getting the victim ready for the grill.
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Barbecue Battle

BBQ war machines ready for action.
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Barbecue Battle

In the heat of battle.
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Barbecue Battle

Eat this...a measly corndog seems out of place at the BBQ battleground
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Barbecue battle

What the heck are Maryland crabcakes doing at a BBQ battle? Can they really compete with all the pork, beef and chicken?
                        Barbecue Battle                        Barbecue Battle
Barbecue Battle

I kept my mouth shut about being a vegetarian while walking the BBQers' gauntlet.
Food CultureFood Culture
Food Culture

Beans growing on the National Mall.

1st July 2005

Cooks on grill and carries big stick
I'm not sure which photo the mighty Don is in. Could he be muffled in mufti in the Oman cooktent? Is he walking behind the tipi-style bean and corn plantings in front of the capitol building? Maybe he's hiding in one of the big metal grills waiting to be lit! Looking forward to your next travelblog!
6th July 2005

Que pasa?
Hola Donato Glad to see you are having such a good time my friend. Looking forward to hearing more of your travels (not travails). Marcos

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