Tag Archives: Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Brunswick Stew Three Ways

Brunswick stew is an amalgamation of vegetables, meat, and other stuff.  And it shall eventually be the subject of this post.

This past weekend, as part of our 27th anniversary celebration, my husband and I ventured westward out toward the Blue Ridges.  On Saturday we visited Staunton, Virginia (looks like “Stawn-ton” but pronounced “Stan-ton” by the natives), home of Mary Baldwin College, the Woodrow Wilson birthplace and library, and Blackfriar’s Shakespeare Theater.  We did not encounter Brunswick stew there.

The concoction was featured on Sunday, when we attended the 2017 Apprenticeship Showcase of the Virginia Folklife Program.  As per usual, one of the finalists of the annual Brunswick stew championship of Virginia, the Proclamation Stew Crew from, of course, Brunswick County, were there stirring their gigantic pot and offering generous helpings for $1.00 a bowl.  Who could resist?

This reminded me not only of the time the crew came to the 2007 Smithsonian Folklife Festival to slave over their hot cauldron for hours, but also a recent and not nearly as satisfying encounter with a so-called Brunswick Stew at a barbecue concession in the Charlotte, NC airport.  It was pretty terrible, consisting I think of all leftover bits of barbecue meat and veg from the sides that did not sell the day before all mashed together.

Which brings me to the final version of “Brunswick Stew” that I once inadvertently concocted during my Camp Randolph cooking days (see earlier post, Lake Effects, Part Three).  The former cook of Camp Randolph apparently used to cook up a full turkey dinner every Sunday (in the middle of the summer!) for the residents.  I compromised at a roast of some sort every Sunday, with turkey being featured every other week.    Still, turkey leftovers were rampant and had to be addressed.

One Friday, I took bits of turkey and mixed them up with the leftover stuffing, some vegetables, and gravy and served it as a sort of, well, stew.  “Marvy Brunswick stew!” declared one of the residents, and I had no idea what he was talking about.

Till years later, when I discovered the authentic Virginia version.  Because, though Georgians also claim the stew was first created there, in my opinion the Virginia version reigns supreme.

 

Counting on My Interns

The intense ten days of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival are over, and our Txiki-Txoko Kids’ Corner is just a memory now.  20160629_120345The tent might even be gone by now, and the only remains will soon be a very large circle of dead grass and a few crayon and colored paper bits ground into the hard-baked soil.  But my 2016 summer interns and I will remember the moments of joy, frustration, laughter, disappointment, and exhaustion that made it an area where we hope kids had fun and learned something about cultural traditions.

Our favorite times might have been the visits of the Basque and California participants who demonstrated their skills, danced, composed, sang, and taught the kids in a way only those with a deep knowledge of a culture can.  But, we also did our share of teaching and passing on what we had learned about Basque culture.


20160710_165541 (1)One of these activities
was Basque Number Bingo, which I generated from an online template that allows you to turn just about any string of related words or images into a bingo game for kids.
(Don’t you just love the internet?  It was called Bingo Baker in case you want to try it!)  All the interns had to learn to count to sixteen (there were four rows of four on the bingo cards) in order to be on the ready to conduct Basque Number Bingo with random kids if/when the occasion arose.  (Usually this meant that some participant who was scheduled to come to us had cancelled for some reason and we had a big hole in our schedule and we had a bunch of kids to amuse with activities of our own devising.)  The numbers were ingrained into our memories and probably will be forever – bat, bi, hiru, lau, bost, sei, zazpi, zortzi, bederatzi, hamar…

Thus the metaphor of the title – I felt as though I could always count on my interns throughout the whole event.  Anne and Sara to keep the schedule updated and to help decide what to fill in with if we had a sudden hole.  Leah to conduct “salt experiments.”  Tyler at the ready to keep track of the myriad day camps in the colored t-shirts and pinafores.  Lila to politely ask parents to fill out the family survey.  Hannah to draw us a new interactive mural for the back wall.  Aliyah to keep the interactive triptych stocked with post-its and markers.  Our repeat volunteer/adopted intern Sam to do everything asked of her.  And a hundred other things they did from rearranging the chairs and tables for new activities to teaching whale origami, to soothing some little kid who banged a knee while playing “Duck, Duck Lamia” or “San Fermin Day sponge tag.”

20160710_222809

I have had many great groups of interns over the years – you know who you are, and thanks to those of you who came to visit during this year’s Festival – but each year’s bunch are special.  I may have been working on the Festival for an amazing 30 years (gulp!) but this will probably be the only year they participate before they go on to other exciting endeavors, and they will hopefully always remember it as a hectic, sweaty, but rewarding experience like no other.  Thanks for the memories, gals!