Local traditions and culture in Virginia

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Virginia

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    Southern hospitality

    by matcrazy1 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    I was always treated very well by natives in Virginia and the South. I was surprised by very, very nice welcome wherever and whenever I came, especially in smaller cities and towns. Natives always wanted to speak with me and were interested who I am, what I do in their city, town or village and why I visit it. They usually started the conversation with simple southern version of "how are you" which sounded like "hi do?". I could write a book about their warm, very warm welcome and their hospitality. It was extremely nice. I am speechless...

    It started in Richmond or more exactly in Mechanicsville where Nat (b1bob) welcomed us (me + Urszula = matcrazy0, my wife) like we were his brother and sister. Shortly we became real, not only virtual friends... Later on during my trip Nat helped us a lot many times sending very helpful faxes and e-mails to my hotels/motels with his suggestions, advice and directions to various exciting points of interest. My trip would be much less interesting and I would skip many, many places without his help. Enough said... Thank you, Nat, my friend. Now, I only worry whether I am able to do the same for him during his trip to Poland. I will try, no doubt about that.

    Today I know that "Southern hospitality" is not only a dead phrase used in American English to describe the idea that residents of the Southeastern United States are particularly warm and welcoming to visitors to their homes. It really exists in the South! A large component of the idea of Southern hospitality is the provision of Southern cuisine to visitors. There are many cookbooks that promise recipes advancing this purpose.

    Follow the link below and smile :-)

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    Southern culture in Virginia

    by matcrazy1 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Southern Culture is a subculture of the United States largely based on Western and British culture, with influences from Indians, Blacks, and numerous immigrant groups. I started to discover it in Virginia. Before my trip through 12 southern states I was told that the South was the most culturally distinct part of the US and that they maintained a very strong regional identity, complete with flags, songs, cuisine and other things. Now, I can say that it's true! Various elements of this culture made my southern odyssey!

    In Virginia I was lucky to experience, discover and touch:
    1. southern heritage
    2. southern pride
    3. southern fast growth and economic development
    4. southern strong regional identity
    5. southern cuisine,
    6. southern hospitality :-)
    7. southern English
    8. southern plantations (tobacco)
    9. southern rural lifistyle in general.
    Today, to discover authentic southern culture in Virginia you have to visit small picturesque towns and one-horse villages, to meet and have a chat with a local (they are great chatters :-) and to visit numerous historical places including James River Plantations (for example Berkeley Plantation in Charles City). I wish I did more off the beaten path trips in Virginia.

    Futhern down in so called Deep South I discovered next feature of southern culture that was music: blues, gospel music, spirituals, country music, rhythm and blues, soul music, bluegrass, jazz (including ragtime :-) all were either born in the South or developed in the region.

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    Virginia makes great ham!

    by matcrazy1 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    In some travel literature I took from Virginia Welcome Center I wrote about famous Virginia ham I never heard of before. Soon I gave it try in Indian Field Tavern in Charles City and to my surprise it tasted great. At that moment I stopped to think that the ban on export Polish ham to the USA is caused by fear of competition. Later on, I tasted a few slices of various kinds of Virginia ham and they all tasted very good, almost as great as the best Polish ham.

    Do not blame me now. I bought what was called Virginia ham not in Virginia but in Raleigh, North Carolina and not in specialty meat/ham grocery store but in Wal-Mart Food Center where "Virginia baked ham" cost $4.48 per pound (for Europeans: it's 7.78 euros per kilo) and it was made in... Iowa :-). Anyway, it tasted very good.

    Well, the most famous is Smithfield ham or country ham. It's typically very salty in taste and reddish in colour. A 1926 Statute of Virginia (passed by the Virginia General Assembly) regulates the usage of the term "Smithfield Ham" by stating: "Genuine Smithfield hams [are those] cut from the carcasses of peanut-fed hogs, raised in the peanut-belt of the State of Virginia or the State of North Carolina, and which are cured, treated, smoked, and processed in the town of Smithfield, in the State of Virginia." Smithfield, a little town, is located in southeastern Virginia across the James River from Newport News and Hampton.

    Italian prosciutto is a bit similar to Virginia country ham but Smithfield ham is smoked and less moister. As I noticed, they tend to slice ham even for typical for Virginia buttermilk biscuit sandwich thicker than in Europe. They usually sell the country ham unrefrigerated as whole bone-in hams packaged in rough cotton bags marked Smithfield. It's also sold in vacuum-packed plastic sheets as ready-to-cook and pre-soaked slices.

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    Water

    by Suet Updated Nov 9, 2010

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    When you enter a restaurant, you are usually given a glass of iced water. This is free and extremely necessary during the hot and humid summers where you can sweat buckets of water while trying to keep cool. You can drink the water (which your server will refill endlessly) until you are rehydrated or just drink it and not order another drink. Most coffee tea and soda orders are refilled as soon as you look "empty" at no extra charge. This is not a gimmick but a real hospitality neccessity in a state that has a red hot summer season.

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    Varina-Enon Bridge

    by msbrandysue Written Jan 18, 2010

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    As I was driving from North Carolina to Connecticut I crossed through Virginia on I-295. There was a spectacular bridge on the way. I took a quick picture so that I could look it up when I got to the hotel room. This bridge was named after the cities it ties together, Varina and Enon.

    Very interesting. The rest is what I found from the website below. Very neat that it withstood a tornado!!

    Also, the website shows a much better picture than I could have gotten while driving.

    "I-295 Varina-Enon Bridge features the world's first use of precast concrete delta frames for construction of its 630' cable-stayed main span. This cost effective and innovative structure carries six lanes of traffic over the James River. Completed in July 1990, this $34.4 million saved the Virginia Department of Transportation approximately $10 million over their project estimate. All seven bidders chose the precast concrete segmental design over the competing steel design.

    This unique cable-stayed bridge withstood a direct tornado strike on August 6, 1993, across the center of its main span without any damage although the tornado overturned trucks traveling on the bridge. It has earned Virginia Department of Transportation seven design awards."

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    Fried green tomatoes

    by b1bob Updated Aug 1, 2009

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    This is a Southern tip

    Fried green tomatoes are one of those delicacies unique to the South at which many coastal elitists from up North and out west turn their nose up. Well, that means more for us. I have always liked them. Not surprisingly, they serve them at the Hanover Tomato Festival in Mechanicsville, Virginia every year. Here is a recipe:

    4 to 6 green tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch (5/8 cm.) thick
    salt and pepper
    flour for dusting
    2 eggs, beaten
    cornmeal or bread crumbs
    bacon grease or vegetable oil (Southerners opt for bacon grease when there's a choice)

    Salt and pepper the tomato slices; dust lightly with flour. Dip slices in beaten egg, letting excess drip off, then coat well with meal or crumbs. Fry in hot grease or oil until browned, turning gently (about 3 minutes each side). Keep warm in a low 200° to 250° (93°C-121°C) oven if frying in batches.

    Fried green tomatoes are such a part of Southern culture that comedian (and "Match Game" panelist Fannie Flagg from Alabama) wrote a book with that title and it was eventually made into a movie.

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    Wreck of Old 97 Marker (Danville)

    by b1bob Written Nov 18, 2008

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    On 27 September 1903 a mail train originating in Washington going through to Atlanta crashed at Stillhouse Trestle just north of Danville. This particular crew took over in Monroe, Virginia (just north of Lynchburg) to hand off the controls at Spencer, North Carolina (somewhere between Greensboro and Charlotte). Private railroad companies under contract by the postal service had to be on time or have to pay a fine per minute late. They left Monroe way behind time. They poured on too much coal and took a steep grade too fast and caused the worst train wreck in Virginia history, killing 9 people. This wreck was the subject of a ballad written in the 1920s, but perfected by American country music singer Boxcar Willie. There is actually a video of the song... Wreck of Old 97 On a personal note, my great granddaddy Harvey Atkins (1886-1966) helped clean up the debris of the wreck in the days before heavy duty cranes.

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    Loving the wildlife

    by Faiza-Ifrah Updated Jul 20, 2008

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    Virginians are proud of their two main wild animals - White Tailed Deer and the American Black Bear.

    This love affair is contagious and it may be psychological. Our Canadian friends from British Columbia, who hiked with us for a small stretch, were as respectable of a bear as were we. The only thing is that they had seen bears before a lot, whereas we had not.

    Once during a tubing session on Massanutten Mountain, we saw a group of White Tailed Deer descend from the hills and make it towards the 'human infested' General Store not suspecting the crowd there. Up went all the cameras and binoculars. This happened even though tourists must have seen deer before in the USA and Canada, yet all of us were equally excited.

    The two animals appear widely on gift items, such as mugs, glasses, and T-shirts. They also appear commonly in the folk tales. The respect could be because of the fact that both these animals were hunted out of this region. It was only because of Shenandoah National Park that these animals made an impressive comeback. However, comback of Elk and Wolf is still awaited.

    Needless to mention, we bought many souvenirs and gifts for our friends back in Ontario showing the two animals boldly on them :-)

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    Virginia is for lovers?

    by Faiza-Ifrah Written Jul 19, 2008

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    I don't know whether Virginia is for lovers or not, but it certainly has enough attractions for those young at heart and romantically inclined.

    Virginia is certainly meant for Virginians though. During our hike to a waterfall in Shenandoah, we made friends with a widely travelled man Greg (see in the picture attached). Greg has travelled to such out of this planet palces as Karachi, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Peru, etc. He is originally from Rochester, New York, but settled in a southeastern coastal town of Virginia for 10 years. He said that Virginians are proud of their state. Most of them have lived and grown here for their entire life, as have been their previous 5-6 generations. Greg said that Virginians still call him a 'Come here' even though he has lived in Virginia for last 10 years. As far as sports are concerned, Virginians hardly follow any major league sports. Instead, they follow college games. Generations after generations have attended colleges and universities in their own state of Virginia and they stick to sports activities relating to them.

    Is there any VTer who would like to confirm or disconfirm this?

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    Mother of Presidents

    by b1bob Updated Nov 4, 2007

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    Although the last Virginia-born left office in 1921, more U.S. presidents were born in Virginia than in any other state: George Washington (1789-97), Thomas Jefferson (1801-09), James Madison (1809-17), William Henry Harrison (1841), John Tyler (1841-45), Zachary Taylor (1849-50), and Woodrow Wilson (1913-21). Each Virginia president has a statue somewhere on the state capitol grounds.

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    state symbols

    by davecallahan Updated Apr 5, 2007

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    the state motto is: "Sic Semper Tyrannis" which is latin for "thus it will always be for tyrants".

    the state mick name is "Old Dominion".

    the state tree is the dogwood.

    the state song is "Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny"

    the state seal has figure of Virtue vanquishing a tyrannt in reference to the state motto which is also included. The reverse side has the figures of Libertas (liberty) with a cap on a pole as a sign of freedom, Ceres (prosperity) with wheat and cornicopia as a signof plenty and Aeternitas (long-lasting) with the emblems of sovereignty and eternity, and the saying "Perservando" (preserving)

    the state flag is the state seal on a blue field

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    Tobacco County and Proud of It!

    by b1bob Updated Oct 7, 2006

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    In many parts of the USA and the world, tobacco, tobacco companies, and tobacco farmers have become something of a pariah. The farmers and those who process the crop are decent and hardworking people deserving of a little respect. Tobacco is a labour intensive crop with leaves (on the same plant) ripening at different times making several harvests in one growing season necessary. For all the hard work, a family can live pretty well on a small plot of land. The pictured sign of support is at the Charlotte and Mecklenburg county line in southern Virginia. This may be a foreign concept in New York and Los Angeles, but Mecklenburg County, Virginia is still proud of its cash crop.

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    Virginia makes great wine!

    by matcrazy1 Updated Oct 5, 2006

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    I never heard about Virginian wine before my trip to Virginia and the South. Even in the best wine stories around me (in Poland) they are unavailable in contrast to wine from states of California (most popular), Washington and Oregon. Now, I know that there are over 50 wineries in Virginia and Virginia wine tastes great. Let's me quote Thomas Jefferson: "We could, in the United States, make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good."

    I visited Jefferson Vineyard near Monticello (Charlottesville), located on Mr. Jefferson's original 1774 vineyard sites. Some wine I tasted (for a $1 fee in 2004, it's $5 in 2006) was so good that I decided to buy a few bottles. I liked especially Chardonnay Reserve '02 (dry, white wine) which went perfectly with pasta and seafood dishes. I paid $12,71 for a bottle (6-pack) of very good wine :-). But you can't buy it now as its longevity was only 2-3 years. I also liked and bought Monticello Johannisberg Riesling 2003. They also offered Merlot, Cabernet and others. Follow the link below to check up-to-date offer.

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    Southern cuisine in Virginia

    by matcrazy1 Updated Oct 5, 2006

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    From my first day on Virginian soil I was very surprised how many restaurants they have (do they ever cook and eat at home?) and how different food they offer. Soon I noticed that despite common prejudice the USA is not a fast food country but different food country. In real fast food has nothing common with American cuisine exept that for sure eating in the USA takes less time than in France. I was also surprised how important for average American food is. While they can spend hours and hours searching for the next good restaurant to visit I can spend hours and hours driving to the next historical, architectural or nature attraction. I don't want to say that food is not important to me but it's not my prority while I travel.

    Thanks to Nat (b1bob) I could try grits, a good homemade breakfast dish popular in the South. It was a type of semi-solid maize (corn) porridge. It's similar to Italian polenta with the difference that grits are made from coarsely ground hominy. Add a lot of butter and crumble up their bacon into the grits and stir to make them better.

    As for the restaurants surely like every visitor I was looking for local food, that is southern homestyle cooking in Virginia. Well, I didn't know English names for various southern meals which made my choice sometimes accidental but I have to admit that I liked a lot some southern meals (details in my restaurant tips).

    Generally while in Virginia try my favourites (!):
    - traditional southern pork barbecue (BBQ or Bar-B-Que)
    - Virginia wine
    - Virginia ham (Smithfield ham or country ham).

    Other southern food I liked but didn't try in Virginia includes: peanut soup, green beans flavored with bacon and salt pork, catfish, field peas, cornbread, sweet tea and a dessert that could be a pie (sweet potato, pecan and peach are traditional southern pies), or a cobbler (peach, blackberry or mixed berry are traditional cobblers). Add fried and deep fried chicken (not my favourite food).

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    Are Virginians religious?

    by matcrazy1 Updated Oct 5, 2006

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    I was told that Southerners are more religious than folks in say New England. I don't know but I could easy find a church both in downtown Richmond and in the neighbourhoods as well as in most even one-horse Virginian villages. Like in the West a year before, I was surprised about numerous religions (hundreds, I think) they practise.

    Look at my picture No 2 taken in Richmond. There is First Church of Christ, Scientist - have you ever heard about this church? I never. Well, American loves the word "first", I found more "first churches", like for example First Baptist Church (quite popular in the South, right?).

    Referring to official statistics 69% (54% USA) Virginians are protestant, 14% (25.9 % USA) Roman catholic and 12% (15%) non-religious.

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