Surprisingly international cuisine
Richmond is most well-known for its monuments to Confederate heroes, being the national capital of the Confederacy, its park-like Capitol Square, the architecture of many old buildings, and its sense of history. Because it is a quintessentially Southern city, it is widely assumed to be provincial in terms of its cuisine. That is, many outsiders often think most restaurants offer only meat-and-potatoes American cuisine, plus a smattering of Italian, Chinese, and Mexican restaurants. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Besides the examples listed below, Richmond offers Indian, Salvadorian, Middle Eastern, Dominican, Jamaican, and I'm sure other cuisines yet to discover.
You would probably not expect a large Greek community in a middling sized city like Richmond. However, there is enough of one to support an ornate Greek Orthodox Church, the Sts. Helen and Constantine church at the corner of Malvern and Grove Avenue. The first weekend of June since 1977, this church hosts a Greek festival which celebrates every aspect of Greek culture. There are also a half dozen or so Greek restaurants in the Richmond area including Crazy Greek, Zorba's, and Athens Tavern.
How about Filipino?
There is even a small but active Filipino community here. There is a restaurant in Richmond's West End called Manila Manila. Their menu offers a wide range of authentic Filipino food. I always go for the lumpia (Filipino-style egg rolls) for an appetiser and pancit (a nourishing rice noodle dish with several vegetables and a choice of meat). They offer a clear noodle soup with chicken and noodles about the same consistency as the rice noodles for the pancit.
en español, em português How about Brazilian?
You know a city has gone international when they get a Brazilian restaurant. One is a rodizio in the West End called Ipanema Grill. That is, wait staff comes by with a cut of meat on a skewer and it is your option to accept or decline that particular cut of meat. Included in that all-you-can eat price is a salad and vegetable bar with such exotic vegetables as hearts of palm. Also, you can make your own feijoada with rice and black beans, with couve (collard greens) and an orange slice on the side.
Havana 59, a more upmarket Cuban restaurant, isn't the only game in town for that cuisine. Actually, in the months following the flood caused by Hurricane Gaston, Kuba Kuba was the only Cuban restaurant in town. One night, after the restaurant of first choice had to close early, Kuba Kuba was off my radar screen and that of my friend. However, we are glad we discovered it. It takes on the air of a Cuban diner with Latin American music playing and the aroma coming out of the kitchen. The food is great and the portions are more than generous and the service is great. They also sell Cuban coffee and other things.
Finger Lickin' Good Ethiopian food
Richmond even offers an Ethiopian restaurant. It is Nile Ethiopian Restaurant & Cafe near the corner of Broad and Laurel Streets. It is genuine in terms of sight (indoor and outdoor decor), sound (African music in the background), smell (the aroma of unique spices coming from the kitchen), and taste (the food is rather spicy, but not overpowering). There is an added cultural bonus. They encourage customers to eat with their fingers. You scoop up whatever is on your plate by breaking of pieces of injera bread (a sourdough bread with a crepe consistency). They have it on the side so you can scoop up your meat, vegetables, or seafood and the plate is lined with that bread so you can fold it up and eat every last bit of food remaining.
This is not the kind of parade where you have some guy dressed like the Easter bunny riding a float with an off-key high school band in tow. At this party, it's the folks who make the parade. The Richmond Easter Parade is a historic event where locals take to Monument Avenue every Easter Sunday for a leisurely stroll up and down the blocked-off avenue from 1-5pm between the Allen and Davis side streets. Local bands play bluegrass and jazz from the front porches of the mansions. Arts and crafts vendors sell jewelry, paintings and more. A bunch of clowns, folks on stilts, and even the Easter Bunny himself are there to entertain the kids. The best Easter entertainment is the people-watching. The Easter Bonnet contest makes for something to see every year. Richmond ladies (and a few men: this is the Fan, after all) create their own Easter bonnet concoctions from styrofoam, mini Easter bunnies and anything else they have to impress the judges. This year, there was the first Pet Bonnet Contest. The bonnets look ridiculous enough on folks, but they were hillarious on the pets. Seeing the pets dressed like this, you have to wonder if they are equipped to feel embarrassed.
Normally, the parade is held on Easter Sunday. However, this Easter, it was postponed by the threat of rain. It didn't actually rain and some local residents grumbled and some threatened not to sign the petition authorising the closing of the street. In my opinion, the previous week's event was prematurely cancelled, but enough people signed the petition to close off the roads in order to have the parade the following Sunday.
en español, en français, em português
Difficult history, different views
My first meeting with history of the Civil War took place just in Richmond, when I visited the Museum and the White House of the Confederacy.
I noticed very fast that this difficult period in American history is still described and judged in many ways by Americans, often in different way than official historical sources. I found it very interesting. Later on I noticed that especially folks who lived for years in the South have different opinion than I could find in books.
Let me share some differences and ask some questions with no simple replies.
Was it really civil war?
Many folks, I was talking to in the South, undermined the official name of this war. They called it either the War Between the States or sometimes the War of Northern Aggression. Well, civil war is by definition a war fought by different groups of people living in THE SAME country (like the Spanish Civil War in 1936-1939). Indeed, the war 1861-1865 was a war between two independent states: old Union (the United States of America = the North) and new Confederacy (The Confederate States of America = the South) which had own government, had a foreign policy, sent ambassadors (Great Britain was one country which recognised the Confederate States of America).
I cannot agree on the thought that the civil war was not really a civil war but a war between countries. According to the constitution of the United States the Southern States had no right for secession.
I checked text of the US Constitution from 1860 and it didn't expressly lay out any guidelines for secession. Thus, I think, there is nothing in it to prohibit secession. A union is, by definition, always voluntary - the act of choice and a free association. Am I wrong?
Bogey's Sports Park
Located just west of Richmond (indeed, technically across the Goochland County line), Bogey's Sports Park offers a driving range, mini golf, and batting cages: perfect for a birthday party, office outing, or just hanging out with friends. Recently, Lee gipper84 and I met with our friend Bill to play 18 holes of mini golf and the driving range. Yes, I'm a glutton for punishment after the last outing in Ashland, but I did better on both. More important than that was hanging out with Lee and Bill.
Visit the Valentine Museum,...
Visit the Valentine Museum, which shows the history of Richmond, and the Museum of the Confederacy. Both are within walking distance of each other the the Medical College of Virginia area. Worth a visit.