Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food

Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food

Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food

Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food

Excerpt

September 2005. The museum café is abuzz. People of every color are taking advantage of its wooden benches, easing feet wearied by the galleries above their heads. School parties commandeer long benches of their own, oblivious to the halo of empty tables developing around them. At a distance from their noisy voices, adults relax. Couples pour drinks, lone diners read the day’s newspapers, and scholars speak up to make themselves heard. Foreign tourists, unused to carrying their lunches on plastic trays, scan the hall for somewhere to sit. Together, all eat from the café’s awardwinning menu. Taste buds jaded by air-conditioning and the humid D.C. atmosphere reawaken as they anticipate dishes from the five regions into which the café has sorted Native American cuisine. Some try the Great Plains option, taking on the fire of buffalo chili, while others pick their way through a quahog clam chowder from the Northern Woodlands. Others choose from the “handheld” possibilities—from the precapitalist fast food of the South American corn pupusa, the Mesoamerican enchilada, or the calorific Plains taco. Others still savor what is perhaps the café’s finest dish, lingering over the delicate pink flakes of the “cedar-planked juniper salmon” representing the Northwest Coast.

Hearing again the sound of running water, all from time to time look up to gaze out of the museum’s tall window panes. Here and there rainbows appear. Disappearing just as quickly, they come to life elsewhere, leaping about on the waterfall tumbling down the glass outside. Seen from within, these rainbows link the foreground with the background of the scene. Somehow they link the diverse customers eating in the museum café with the prospect of the Capitol, blurred by the waterfall, bulking large on the horizon. An outside view throws a different light on things. From here, the full breadth of the waterfall becomes visible, and the rainbows that shimmer in the September sunshine curve into the building . . .

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