Sunday, July 3, 2011

Local Travels: Smithsonian Folklife Festival + Ray's Hell Burger

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival
The National Mall, Washington, DC

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival has been an DC Summer mainstay since the 1960s. The fesitival’s website describes it as, “an exercise in cultural democracy, in which cultural practitioners speak for themselves, with each other, and to the public.” I love the phase, cultural democracy.
I spent the first 12 years  of my life (give or take a couple months) in Southern California in a very multicultural area. Instead of denying the existence of any and all holidays, which seems to be the trend these days, my elementary school celebrated as many cultural holidays and experiences that could fit in the school calendar. And the best part of it all was we just didn’t open a book and read about these holidays, but we had parents and friends from the community, who lived these cultures come into our classrooms and share with us.  I value this education probably  more, than anything that I learned from a book. From a young age I learned about beautiful people and beautiful cultures. I learned that I shouldn't be afraid of people who are different from me, in skin color, religion, language or cultural background.  I learned that people from all the lands and seas of the world just want to be loved and accepted for who they are.  And that almost every culture, from every corner loves to dance. Its true. 
The folklife festival reminded me of all these lessons. Here are people, this was year it was people from Colombia, sharing their stories, lives, and loves with us.  I weaved through the tents of food, music and dancing, crafts and information booths and learned little interesting facts about a faraway place, but also learned that the world really isn't as big as sometimes we think.  

Ray's Hell Burger
Arlington, VA
And then, thinking I still have some daylight hours to burn, I finally, finally made it out to Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington. This burger joint has only been around for a couple years and publicity is done entirely through word of month. Or that was at least the case until the President of the United States decided to bring the President of Russia to the little eatery. With all the hubbub around the place I was expecting some grand spectacle but was very pleasantly surprised that it is still a hole in the wall with all the charm that a cash only,  no website, and good food, local favorite should have.  And probably the best, the best, (one more time) the best hamburgers that I have tasted this side of the Mississippi. 

 My B.I.G  Poppa Burger with aged danish blue cheese and cognac and sherry sauteed mushrooms.

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