March 25, 2011

I just got back from three jam-packed days in our nation’s capital.  Me, sixty-four eighth graders, and five other chaperones.  So this post isn’t about food, I’m afraid.  It’s about patriotism and belief.

D.C. holds a powerful chunk of nostalgia and memory for me, each visit powerful and distinct in its own right, layering my connections and attachment, building a kind of claim, piling on my own personal rituals.  Like many of my students, I encountered Washington for the first time as an eighth grader, earnest and eager and pretty well awestruck.  I cried when I heard Taps played at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; I read the speeches carved into the Lincoln Memorial aloud to myself.  I’ve done both on every subsequent visit, too. 

As a sophomore in high school, I participated in a program called Close-Up, during which I made a very good friend, Katie, whom I’ve written about before.  We were old enough then to debate about politics, to dream of and aspire to things.  Every time I’m back, I do two things for Katie: take a self-portrait picture in the Vietnam Memorial, as she taught me, and send her a postcard of the Jefferson Memorial, her favorite. 

My mom and I traveled together to D.C. just a few months later—she hadn’t been in decades, but I knew the place so well that I could show her around.  My parents elected to come to this country; it meant something to them, America.  They arrived in the late sixties, were amazed by the freedoms of speech and protest and dissent; some of my mom’s most vivid memories include listening to the Watergate hearings on their small, transistor radio and debating about politics over Howard-Johnson pistachio ice cream. 

I lived in D.C. for a very special summer in college, interning on Capitol Hill, subleasing an apartment in Columbia Heights, learning the ins and outs of the ambition and diversity that drives the District.  I ate a lot of amazing food, I went to a new museum every weekend, I learned to be less afraid and more adventurous. 

Half-a-dozen trips cannot, has not, diminished for me the power of the place that is the symbolic center of the country I love.  Our monuments, our memorials, our beliefs and our highest ideals—honored and held up as a standard by which we are to live.  Do we always reach that standard?  Of course not.  But I believe it is a real standard, a truth with aliveness and power, and I am proud to be a part of it.



  1. Nishta: The photos are gorgeous. I too have a deep love for and fascination with Washington D.C. Thanks to my father’s job, my family lived on Cathedral Ave. for six months of my 8th grade year. No question, those months and my father’s interest in politics and government formed the direction of my life over the past 50 years. Thank you for sharing your awe with your readers and your students. Carolyn

    Comment by carolyn truedell — March 26, 2011 @ 10:35 am

  2. Hi Nishta,
    The pictures are great. Of course there are lots of pictures that I do not recognize. May be I need to go back with you sometime. I am very proud that you love the country that your parents willingly adopted and became very thankful citizens. I do get mad at the politicians and then remind
    myself that they are mere mortals and no better than any one else. So glad you had a great trip.

    Comment by Veena Mehra — March 27, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

  3. Hi Nishta! I’ve been reading your blog since it started, but I’ve only commented once or twice total. However, I’m just stopping by to say that I love your blog! Both your recipes and your writing are always spot-on, and a joy to read. I live in Washington DC, so I particularly loved this post, and also enjoyed reading the twitter updates when you were here.

    Thanks for sharing your writing and your food with us! I’m always happy to see a new post by you : )

    Comment by Meg — April 5, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

  4. Carolyn, Mom–thank you both for your continued readership & love!

    Meg–I’m so glad to have your comment. It’s really very affirming to have such great feedback from a reader, you’ve made my day! Thank you.

    Comment by Blue Jean Gourmet — April 7, 2011 @ 9:25 am

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