I keep a list of cities and areas I plan on featuring in THE TABLE. On the list was Washington, D.C. On Memorial Day Sunday, while watching the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS, the list came to mind, and that Washington had not been addressed. So the decision was made for this week’s column.
Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia) is the capital of our United Sates of America. It was in 1790 that approval for a capital district was put in place.
D.C. is the home of Congress, the President and Supreme Court. There are many national monuments and museums. It is also home to many organizations and agencies that impact the government. Both states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form D.C. in 1791, and it was named after George Washington, one of the country’s founding fathers and our first president. In 1846, the land that originally belonged to Virginia was returned to state of Virginia.
The Constitution permitted a “district” not more than 10 miles square to be established, a site along the Potomac River. Over the years the city has grown to more than 68 square miles. In 1801, the District of Columbia came under exclusive control of the federal government.
Washington, D.C. is not a state and it has no voting representatives in Congress. Residents elect one non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives, who doesn’t have a vote on the House floor. Since 1973, there has been an elected mayor and a 13-member council. But, Congress still maintains the supreme authority over the entire city and can overturn local laws.
Today there is an estimated population base of more than 650,000. Mostly government employees and commuters from the surrounding areas can grow this number to one million daily.
Washington, D.C. was a planned city designed by Pierre Charles L’Fnfant, French architect and city planner. His plans were based on the cities of Europe. Original plans envisioned open spaces with garden-lined avenues, like spokes on a wheel with the Capitol in the center.
Throughout development some plans have gone astray. Part of the city became marred by slums and misplaced buildings. The D.C. skyline is low and sprawling. The two highest buildings are the Capitol and the Washington Monument. Some believe height restrictions of buildings limited affordable housing and added to traffic congestion.
High unemployment rates and crime go hand-in-hand. Poverty, drugs and gangs in the 1990s gave the city the label of the “murder capital” with 479 murders within one year.
Tourism is the second largest industry in D.C. In recent years approximately 18.9 million visitors have pass through the city. Statistic show of the top 500 companies in the U.S., four are headquartered in D.C.
The city has so much to offer. To mention just a few things, there is the National Mall, a large open park between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian Institute – an educational foundation maintaining most of the nation’s official museums and galleries, open to the public for free. There are many private museums. D.C. is the national center for the arts.
The architectural features of the city vary a great deal. At the top of the list of America’s favorites is the White House, Washington National Cathedral, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the list goes on.
When it comes to sports, it has four major professional men’s teams and one major professional women’s team. Current teams have won a combined total of 10 championships.
There are 176 foreign embassies located in the city. This mix makes for diversified and complex eating in and around the area. Restaurants throughout the city offering a variety of food to diners.
The food that stands out and is served in large quantity is found on Congressional Hill in its 11 dining rooms, serving gallons of this soup daily. The first bowl of this soup was served in 1940 in a Senate dining room and still going strong.
This recipe was given to me by Joe Hoeffel, who at one time was a representative from 13th District PA, while taping for one of my television shows.
Congressional Bean Soup
• 1 pound dried white beans, Great Northern or navy
• Water to soak
• 1 meaty ham bone or 2 smoked ham hocks
• 3 quarts of water to cook
• 3 medium onions, finely chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 3 ribs of celery, finely chopped
• 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
• 1 cup cooked mashed potatoes (or 1/3 cup instant potato flakes)
• Salt to taste & diet
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
• Garnish with parsley or chives
Soak beans overnight or at least for several hours until soft. Drain the beans and place with ham in large soup pot. Add 3 quarts of cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer over low heat. Skim if necessary. Chop the onions, garlic, celery and parsley. After the beans & meat have cooked for 2 hours, add vegetables and potatoes to the pot. Simmer for additional hour, until beans are tender. Season with salt & pepper. Remove the bones and meat from the soup. Dice meat into 1/2” pieces and return to pot. Ladle into hot heavy soup bowls and garnish.
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