Thursday, May 30, 2013

History Saturday

We did our annual pilgrimage to Philadelphia this weekend, taking in the sights over Memorial Day Saturday before Bud's kung fu tournament on Sunday.  We're reveling in nearby excursions again and look forward to adding more places to our Boston-NYC-Philly-DC repertoire in the future (where else is there, you say?  Small places with interesting attractions, like Newport or Mystic or Litchfield or Northhampton.)

We started at the Independence Visitor Center, where I met a friendly and interesting first-person historical interpreter who portrays 18th-century draper, Sarah Milton.  We talked about knitting--especially on large needles--and she shared with me a pattern for a cowl (given from memory, but too complicated for me.)  We also talked about Betsy Ross's house, Elfreth's Alley (the preserved colonial street), and the like.  When I told her I volunteered at an historic house, she broke character and we discussed the business--first person vs. third person interpretation especially in a place like the Visitor's Center.  It was intriguing and got me thinking about doing some first-person interpretation at our historic house.  And the kids and Mama were very patient.

We actually did start at Betsy Ross's house, on a self-guided tour through the tiny building that she actually shared with others.  The kids, being 18th-century house experts by now, made it through rather quickly, enjoying best of all the reading of the labels with the flip-cover Q&A.  They also enjoyed meeting Betsy Ross, who taught them how to cut a five-pointed start with only a few folds and two snips.  But most of all, I think Sis relished playing in the kids' kitchen in the basement, where a dramatic play area is set up, complete with recipe for turkey pot pie.  She diligently followed all the steps and had such a wonderful time.  I love that she still enjoys playacting and is so un-self-conscious about it.  I definitely want to do more areas like that at our historic house.

Yes, in ways, this was one big professional research trip for me!

After Betsy Ross's house, we went to Benjamin Franklin's print shop, which is just not as much fun as it used to be--several aspects of it are closed, due to construction or the Sequester, so there's really only one room. It's really a shame.

We headed to City Tavern, the restored 18th-century restaurant with period food and costumed wait staff. Oh, what a lunch! Anadama bread, Sally Lunn bread, sweet potato biscuits (Jefferson's favorite!), mushroom toast, mushroom barley soup, West Indian pepperpot soup, duck sausage with sauerkraut, lobster pot pie, turkey pot pie, homemade kielbasa with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes, tofu (a la Ben Franklin) with linguine, spiced raspberry pie, Martha Washington's chocolate mousse cake, and raspberry shrub to drink!  The kids were fascinated to learn that George Washington had eaten there several times, preferring a corner table in the next room.  I love that they get excited about stuff like that and also that they are game to try all that food.

But the best part happened next:  we were upstairs using the restrooms when I spotted the chef, Walter Staib, in his office.  The door was open and so I pointed him out to the kids, who have watched his show, "Taste of History," with me on television.  Soon enough, Sis was in there saying hello and the kids posed for a picture with him  He even gave them a copy of his DVD on the first five presidents.  Luckily, he was talking mostly to them because I was probably too excited to act normally--they saved me from gushing too much about his show and his food.  

After lunch, we headed back to the Visitor's Center, by way of a gift shop and the outdoor exhibition on the President's House, which details 18th-century slavery.  And we watched the protesters--on one hand, a group of 2nd amendment gun toters (and yes, right there in the middle of Philly, they were all legally carrying concealed weapons!), and, on the other side, a much bigger rally of people protesting Monsanto and GMO. Very disparate groups, with not a lot of overlap.  But they did give us an opportunity to talk to the kids about democracy, free speech, and the right to gather.

Tuckered out, we opted to head to our hotel to rest and regroup before Bud's big day on Sunday, which I'll post about next.

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