Media in Times of War: A Review of “Dessert Journey: An Ambassador’s Experience”


Dessert Journey: An Ambassador’s Experience is a recently published book (Punto Rojo Libros, 2015) that, by recounting the experiences of a Spanish Ambassador in times of war, sheds a particularly piercing light over the inner workings of what the author and first-person narrator calls the ‘Diplomatic Carrier’. Arbolí’s intention with it was not, however, to write a history book. But to, as he points out himself in the 276 page book’s prologue, share unknown facts and  details about Iraq’s invation of Kuwait and the subsequent  Gulf War 1990-1991 which may be “culturally enriching to the public” (p.11)

Loving research and having never before read a travel writing book, I wanted to find something that would give me a detached –yet personal enough– perspective of a specific place. Wanted to get to know my chosen destination’s background in detail. To learn about something well enough to gain true cultural knowledge, while getting a decent amount of entertainment. So, to learn about a nation located in Eastern Arabia through the eyes of a man moving heaven and earth to fulfill his duty to two countries simultaneously seemed to fit the bill quite nicely. ($23) promised a good read.


Juan José Arbolí Desvalls, Ambassador of Spain in the Emirate of Kuwait, left his post on early July 1990 for Spain to undergo surgery the 19th of said month. A few weeks later, August 2nd, news reach him that Iraq has invaded Kuwait and that the nation’s airport has been bombarded. Still convalescent, he calls Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and receives his orders: “Get as close to the Embassy as you can” (p.26).

By the time our narrator arrives at the frontier, in company of the Canada’s Ambassador in Kuwait and two staff members of Spain’s Embassy in Riad; Capital of Saudi Arabia, the highway had been blocked both by armed soldiers and a tank. No one can pass through. A situation which did not change during any of the three times the entire group drove to (and from) the frontier in hopes of being allowed in[1]. Full-scale war erupted a few days after he was called back.

The entire voyage[2], comprised in the book’s first four chapters, lasted nine days from start to finish: August 4-12. All remaining chapters (eight, plus an epilogue and anex) contain relevant, and very detailed background information.

Review & Reflection

I chose this book because I wanted something honest. Something that would entertain me without having to sacrifice too much of its grip on reality in exchange for florid language and marketable half-truths. In short, I wanted a down-to-earth narration. And that’s exactly what I got.

The only problem was that there was too much of it in-between lines. Too much human truth, I mean. Stemmed from evidence pointing to the fact that Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affair’s fear of the media[3], appears to have had considerable weight in the decisions taken during the first days subsequent to Saddam Hussein’s Invasion of Kuwait. More even than the well-being of the Embassy, the hostages it hosted[4], its Staff and the Ambassador himself. Conflict in Kuwait was, after all, the most important news item in the world from August 2, 1990 to February 28, 1991. Seven whole months, practically a record.

According to our narrator, the Ambassador of Spain in Kuwait himself, relationships between Kuwait and Iraq had been tense for some time. Ever since the beginning of the war between Iraq and Iran (1980-1988). Not only because Kuwait’s access to the Persian Gulf through the Shatt Al-Arab strait had geostrategic importance for Irak, but because Kuwait was unapologetically[5] rich. Invading their neighbors was, for Iraq, the key to gain everything they needed. A way to re-ignite its fully equipped army’s morale[6], and a resource to pay off the previous war’s debt. Yet, the kuwaiti people did not pay attention to the warning signs.

Far from it. Iraq’s frequent military skirmishes in the frontier[7] did nothing to convince Kawait of the need to ratify the frontier line loosely proposed by Great Britain[8] and last spoken of in 1984. Fights became “the usual”, and when Saddam Hussein’s army finally struck the truth is that no one expected it. Not the nation’s government, not the civilians and certainly not representatives of foreign nations such as Arbolí. The man was not at his Embassy because he, thinking that nothing was amiss, had formally requested leave to have surgery and had left his post (manned by his Secretary) just a month before the conflict started. Spain’s government feared media wouldn’t see it that way, though. Not with what had happened in Cuba a few years back.

It mattered little that the successful kidnapping of three cubans seeking refuge in the Embassy of Spain (La Habana) by socialists had happened while the Ambassador had been out on his reglamentary, yearly vacation. All the media saw then was a system failure. Hence, when Kuwait was invaded and it turned out the Ambassador was not there, the governments first though was get him back there as soon as possible. Arbolí (given his old-school sense of duty) was already moving by the time he was called, nevertheless. But I didn’t like the government’s prioritizing of public opinion over their own (and still convalescent) Ambassador’s health. Even if his failed attempts to reach his Embassy did manage to calm the media[9] somewhat.

I thought about it a lot as I read. How, even in times of war, people’s priorities seem to be backwards. When did a favorable comment from CNN gain more value than a human life? The question itself is present throughout the whole book like a hidden theme. Almost as if the whole point of the narrative was – more than to recount his experiences – to highlight this as a fact. An issue of major concern. Especially since, as he points out, news lose relevance quickly. They disappear. Like a mere “information balloon blown [out of proportion] by the media” (13p.), even though there’s nothing further from the truth. And then all that remains are the consequences.

How many bad choices have people made simply to stay in the media’s good graces? How many lives lost? Do governments control the media, or does media control the government? , and finally, the mother of all questions. What is the truth? At risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I’m going to put my thoughts out and say this: I don’t think anyone knows anymore. Not with how malleable it is. At best there must be many truths, or one truth with many variants. And those who know more about those variants are those with whom we communicate less: The diplomats. The politicians. Those closest to the source.

Since this book is still fairly new, no one seems to have posted a full-fledged review yet. When interviewing Arbolí on the subject of Kuwait, however, articles do consistently draw on his remarks to start broader discussions. Particularly his comment on how “Spain makes poor use of its diplomatic[10] potential”. Which goes hand-in-hand with what I’ve expressed above[11]. “Diplomats often possess fantastic information and no one takes advantage of it” said Arbolí to a reporter in February 2016 – “They are very capable people and their potential is often wasted”.


Arbolí Desvalls, Juan José. “Dessert Journey: An Ambassador’s Experience” Published by Punto Rojo Libros. 2015. Print

Merino, Olga. “Juan José Arbolí: ‘España desaprovecha su potencial diplomático’” Published by El Periódico: Internacional. 2016. Web.

[1] 500 meters, 122F under shade (one way).

Note: There are 1.000 km between Riad and the Saidi Arabia / Kuwait Frontier.

[2] Timeline:

Agust 4: Flight, Barcelona (Spain) -Frankfurt (Germany) – Riad (Capital, Saudi Arabia).

August 4/5: Car, Riad – Jubail (Industrial city, Saudi Arabia).

August 5: Car, Ras Al-Jafji  (town, Saudi Arabia) –  Saidi Arabia / Kuwait Frontier (entry attempt 1).

Saidi Arabia / Kuwait Frontier – Ras Al-Jafji.

 Ras Al-Jafji – Saidi Arabia / Kuwait Frontier (entry attempt 2).

Saidi Arabia / Kuwait Frontier – Ras Al-Jafji – Jubail.

August 6: Car, Jubail – Ras Al-Jafji – Saidi Arabia / Kuwait Frontier (entry attempt 3).

Saidi Arabia / Kuwait Frontier – Ras Al-Jafji – Jubail

August 6/7: Car, Jubail – Riad

August 7, 8,9 10: Riad

Agust 10/11: Flight, Riad – Zurich (Switzerland) – Barcelona.

Agust 11/12: Flight, Barcelona – Madrid (Spain).

[3] And their influence on public opinion thanks to television (global coverage)

[4] Six in total. Gathered there by Iraq’s troops.

[5] Kuwait’s oil industry (100.000 thousand barrels, same as Iraq) generated an immense amount of money. Ostentatious displays of wealth and copious investments in foreign soil were particularly common during the nation’s Golden Age.

[6] 1.000.000 men

[7] Prior to the invation.

[8] First in 1913, then in 1920.

[9] CNN tracked and transmitted Arbolí’s every move.

[10] Meaning its diplomats’potential.

[11] Appicable to any government around the globe.

The North Carolina Aquarium

By Taylor Logeman, 2014

As they approach the North Carolina coast, those traipsing near the end of Highway 64 are likely to miss a certain point of interest, though this is a site definitely worth visiting.  Roanoke Island, adjacent to the beachy town of Nags Head, is home of the North Carolina Aquarium, a waterfront facility that houses a remarkable variety of aquatic wildlife, from local species (mostly various small fish and turtles) indigenous to the region to those of a more exotic nature (like the seahorse, angelfish, and starfish exhibits).  Guests are guided through displays of all kinds, from a playful, family-friendly otter house to rooms of a more sinister nature, most notably the dimly-lit space showcasing an impressive collection of five shark species in the facility’s largest tank.

North Carolina Aquarium

Traveling Through Home: A Native of the Highway

By Jenna Hokanson -2014

The phrase “the grass is always greener” has never failed to boggle my mind. As humans tend to always want the things that are out of grasp to us, the things that we aren’t used to seeing every day. For instance, I cannot count on one hand how many times my friends and I have agreed to switch hair for the day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grumbled to myself about eating the same granola bar every day for a week, or how many times I’ve stared at my closet with “nothing at all to wear.” Yet all of these thoughts when looked at deeper remind me that while I may want what others have, others also want what I have. The Highway 64 project has reminded me of how important it is to notice how green your grass really is.

I’ve never been one to hate the place that I come from. At the same time I would say, I’ve never been one to love where I’ve come from either. This is likely due to the fact that I get bored far too easily and that I am often so busy dreaming about the places far beyond that I miss the gifts right under my nose. To be honest, the Piedmont has it’s qualities I could do without. I often disagree with some closed mind sets, and sitting around catching’ catfish is not my idealistic way of spending my morning. However, as we visited several towns along the way through the Piedmont of North Carolina, I found where my love does lie.

My love lies in the cities. I spent a summer working in Raleigh, NC during my college career, but who knew until this trip what I was missing in terms of cultural experiences. Not only did I have some of the best “upscale” home cooked food I have ever had, but the city offered a Multicultural Festival in which I sunk my teeth into the world that I have constantly thrived to know. I never knew that such a world could be so close. Not to mention the architecture of downtown, the tall buildings, and busy streets remind me of my own very mini New York City- which I love so much.

My love lies in the art. Because I feel I became bitter with the lack of everyone’s appreciation for art in my town, I forgot to realize that it is a staple in many people’s lives even if it’s not in everyone’s. Pittsboro, NC was the town I fell in love with at first sight. The mural on the wall outside of our parking spot- glass pieces,colored and mixed in with shards of mirrors, I saw myself in this mural and I saw myself in this town. After speaking with the owner of a local art shop, I found that art was indeed alive in this area and it was protected by those who desired to preserve it.

My love lies in the culture. Upon entering college, I never realized how unique the south truly was. I don’t mean to say I didn’t notice the thick drawl in the accents of my neighbors, or the fact that rebel flags are stilled deemed “appropriate” in some areas of my town. I mean to say that I never thought of how specific the south is in food, in manner, in religion, in relationships, and in the view of the world. While the south often is associated with being less progressive than other areas, I can appreciate the part of the south that is slow for the reason of letting themselves simply live. I don’t do that enough. I don’t just breathe in the crisp air and “shoot the breeze” on the porch. I admire that culture.

My love lies in the beauty. Driving along Highway 64 with a guest artist from London, he watched the streets and the trees with such delight. Saying how much he loved the little picket fences and how gorgeous the sky was on what seemed to me an ordinary road. It was in this moment that I realized I was not seeing something. My eyes had been fogged by being spoiled with beautiful towns my whole life. I was not seeing the gorgeous canvas that I was blessed to belong to. The oranges, reds, cobblestones, old bricks, trees and birds upon birds singing… the weather changing the feeling of each town on a daily basis-never expected and certainly never boring.

My love lies in the people. There is such a thing as “southern charm.” There is such a thing as going out of your way to look out for someone, to talk to someone, and to joke with them as they check out at your grocery line. In this area, humans interact, which sounds like what all people across the world should be doing, isn’t that what we’re made for? To grow not around but with one another? I appreciate talking to people I don’t know and learning about their lives. I appreciate that a lot people in the south take the finer things in life as the best things in life. I admire it because my materialism often shadows those thoughts. I often get frustrated that someone is walking too slow on the sidewalk of my small town, but I must keep in mind that they are living instead of rushing through life.

And lastly…My love lies in Home. There was a feeling I noticed as I approached the end of my trip, our last stop was my home: Lexington. It’s a lot like falling in love. Often the person who we should love the most and need to love the most is right in front of us. We tend to take them for granted until it’s too late. We tend to expect them to always be there, that we don’t realize the gifts they have provided us every day. As a senior, leaning toward my last journey before adulthood, I see home differently. I’ve always believed that home is mostly in the people around me, but living in the same house my whole life, it’s hard to not look around Lexington and feel guilty for the time loving it that I missed out on. However, one must realize that each place that touches us, touches us in a way that sticks.

I am thankful I made this trip, I am thankful that I made this trip now. Because now, before I head out I can take another look at the grass and be thankful that it is so very iridescently green. Every part of my 21 years in North Carolina has molded me into the person I have become and has changed the way I view those around me and the unique qualities that make our culture, our culture. Every time I come back I can take in that Carolina skyline, the rolling hills, the scent of the burning leaves, the vinegar in the BBQ sauce, the “how many times can this person call me sweetie?”, the door holding, the y’all speaking, and the love. All the love in one place.

And I can know that home will always be there.

No matter where I am, I’ll be “gone to Carolina in my mind”.

What We Walked Into

By Miranda Romano -2014

The streets outside were quiet. The farmer’s market we had expected to find was actually an empty lot, so we searched the buildings for somewhere open; some sign of life. As I stepped through the door of Sam’s Café, a dull little bell ringing behind me, I caught a glimpse of what Alice must have felt when she fell down the rabbit hole. My group and I had stumbled upon a niche in the world that was hardly ever disturbed, and we were clearly outsiders. I walked in last, behind the others, so I was protected a bit from the staring and confused eyes by the bodies of my group members. Nevertheless, I felt incredibly exposed in the middle of that tiny café. Half the people in there were wearing Sam’s Café shirts and the others clearly belonged there as much as those employees. Almost all of the red, plastic booths were empty; only two were occupied, one by a family with a small toddler and a dad with an impressive beard. Unsure of what to do, we quickly sat down at the long bar that ran the length of the room. It looked like it had been running that length since the 50s. We found out later that it actually had been. We took our pick from a menu of simple sandwiches and watched the employees construct them behind the counter. Movement in the window caught my eye and I suddenly noticed a mechanical butterfly revolving around a potted plant. A strange humming from the ceiling lights gave the butterfly an eerie feel. Its little paper wings rustled frantically as it continued its ceaseless revolution. We ate our sandwiches quietly, feigning deep interest in our food. In actuality, we were listening to the comfortable conversations between the employees and the locals at the counter and an elderly man in the back complaining about the loss of his sparkly comforter. We spent a few minutes in conversation with the owner, whom the old man in the back called Pork Chop, before heading back out into the quiet street. All the life in Siler City was held inside that little café and we couldn’t help but feel in awe over the difference between that place and our lives outside the rabbit hole.SamsCafe

Time Traveling in Asheboro

By Miranda Romano – 2014

Time Walking into the Antique Mall was like walking into a stranger’s grandparent’s house: if their Time2grandparents kept everything they’d ever owned along with all the possessions of their parents and their parents’ parents. The place was built of glass cases and old wooden armoires pushed up against each other. These cases held every household object one could think of; gold earrings worn old and dull, fishing lures that had seen more lakes than any person ever has, vials for makeup and spices, lamps that burned oil and every manner of carved and lacy furniture. Probably most intriguing was the surprisingly large collection of small ceramic gnomes. We were lost for a while perusing shelves of artifacts saved from decades past. Kelley managed to find a terrifying looking handheld blade, hidden inside a stack of old records.

As we were finally forcing ourselves to find the exit, a bearded man in jeans walked down the stairs carrying a giant scythe, shouted this is mine and walked out the front door.

Preserving the Charm: Pittsboro, NC

By Kelley Dodge – 2014

PittsboroDriving into the quaint town of Pittsboro, we immediately swerve into a parking spot outside the historicPittsboro3 Chatham County Courthouse. The Victorian-style building, with a three-layer cupola, marks the beginning of downtown Pittsboro. Before making it to the downtown shops we stop, mesmerized by artwork on the first building of the strip. Though still under construction, there is a beautiful mosaic of flowers that has been crafted with shiny pieces of mirror. As we are admiring the artwork, two women walk by, one of whom stops to chat with us. Cindy Edwards, a Pittsboro native, tells us about the town’s priority of preserving its history, emphasizing the displays of public art, which further enhances its charm.


Pittsboro5Our first indication of this tightly knit community is in sitting down to dinner at S & T Soda Shop, a downtown restaurant that Pittsboro6Cindy noted as one of her favorites. Upon opening the menu, we begin reading about the history of the Soda Shop, stumbling across the restaurant’s special acknowledgement of Cindy Edwards, one of the founding proprietors. Pittsboro’s community culture shined at S & T Soda Shop, where everyone seemed to be on a first name basis with each other, frequently moving from table to table to visit friends. Though outsiders, we were warmly greeted at the door and graciously taken care of by our young, energetic waitress. Not only was the service good, but the sandwiches, burgers, and milkshakes were a perfect combo.


Pittsboro7Leaving S & T Soda Shop we wandered to a side street to explore the Food Truck Rodeo, another event thatPittsboro8 many locals recommended. The Rodeo boasted an assortment of food and drink options spanning from the Carolina Brewing Company to sub-sandwiches, and mini donuts to Italian ice, there was certainly something for everyone. Hosted by the Pittsboro Roadhouse General Store, the Rodeo was set up in a parking lot where people gathered at tables, enjoying their Saturday evening with good friends and good food.

After exploring the Food Truck Rodeo, we wandered back to Hillsboro Street, which runs through the heart of downtown Pittsboro, and stopped into a woodshop and an art store, both of which boasted many interesting crafts.The local artisans emphasized the fact that Pittsboro prides itself on small businesses, but expressed concern for an incoming development, something that Cindy and our waitress at S&T Soda Shop had also mentioned during our conversations. This concern, we soon realized, is one that is shared by many Pittsboro natives. On Pittsboro9Pittsboro10four different occasions, locals brought up displeasure about a new 7,000-acre technology park currently under construction. While Pittsboro is currently home to about 5,000 residents, the new development, dubbed as a “Live-Work-Play” community is expected to bring an estimated 55,000 people to the area. Local residents, restaurants, and shopkeepers all expressed concern about this influx of people and how it might drive out small local businesses or on the contrary, stimulate too much demand. The development also poses a threat to Pittsboro’s small-town, tight-knit community atmosphere. While the project has already been approved, one thing is sure: it will be nearly impossible to ruin Pittsboro’s innate charm, because the community will fight to preserve its historic, small-town atmosphere.

Leaving Pittsboro as the sun set over the Courthouse, we were smiling ear to ear. Because we had never heard of PittsboroPittsboro11 before, we journeyed to the town with very low expectations. However, our preconceptions could not have been more wrong. Of all the towns we visited for the Piedmont Region of Highway 64 project, Pittsboro was easily our favorite. We were enchanted by the welcoming community, talented artisans, tasty food, and historic buildings. Just minutes away from Raleigh and Chapel Hill, this gem is a must see for anyone living in or traveling through North Carolina.

Raleigh Roots

By Caroline Zybala – 2014

While at the International Festival in Raleigh, NC, our group kept seeing this man, wearing some traditional ethnic attire and a hat with a large feather, walking around the convention center. We finally decided to approach him and figure out his story. We figured he would be a good character to interview for our project. Quickly, we discovered that this individual was a wealth of information about Highway 64 and the evolution of North Carolina over the years. Alvin M. Fountain, 2nd, (“How southern can I be?”), lives in Raleigh, North Carolina and grew up with Highway 64 being an important travel route.

“We used Highway 64 to get to the beach. I mean, it goes to both the beach and the mountains, but the trip to the beach is only two hours, compared to the four hours to the mountains.” But travel was not the only use of this road—Fountain also used the road to travel south to Charlotte on occasion. Looking around at the bustling crowd, he lowered his voice and said, “I like it because it is quieter. Until you hit the traffic!”

We all laughed, and then we changed topics to figure out what had prompted the outfit. “I am actually here with the Polish group. I am the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland for North Carolina. But, I am not Polish. I am your typical southern, white, Anglo-Saxton Protestant. But I studied German in high school and got really interested in the cultures over there.” Referring to his hat, he explained it was created by local, elderly Polish-American ladies, who bought the materials themselves. “This is a traditional Polish hat. They made it back in 1986 for the opening for the International Festival. I was there for that. I’ve actually been to the festival every year. Well, in 2010, I did miss the festival proper, but I helped set it up, so I count it. My wife had her 50th high school reunion.”

At this point in the conversation, Alvin tried to think of other things to tell us about Highway 64 and North Carolina history. He explained how his family had been in North Carolina for over 300 years, and he could remember back to 1949, when North Carolina was very different. “There were almost no Catholics in North Carolina when I was growing up. When Kennedy was running for president, they were looking at the breakdown of Catholics in each of the states. North Carolina actually had the smallest percentage. But now, things have really changed. Right by Siler City, there is a giant Catholic church that looks like it could be right out of Mexico.”

When prompted to explain why this changed happened, Alvin responded, “Culturally, the state of North Carolina has changed greatly. When I was growing up, everyone was a WASP.” He quickly explained the acronym (White Anglo-Saxton Protestant) because we all must have shown some real confusion in our expressions. “The other group of people was what I like to call BAAP—Black African American Protestant.”

“But now, we have so many other people in the state, like people in the Polish club. The Research Triangle Park is really influenced this change. When companies moved down here, it would really shake up the whole Triangle. A big one was IBM, which brought people from the upper Midwest and upstate New York. Overall, Raleigh has really grown.”

We asked him for his final thoughts on Highway 64 in regards to his life, and he thought for a moment. Squinting his eyes, he said, “64 is really a sort of central road. It can be a connecting route if you want to make your trip worthwhile and get to point A to point B. The road can take you east to the zoo, and to Rocky Mount—that is where my mother grew up. Or you can head west, and the road splits at Zebulon. There are parts when it turns into single lanes, and the traffic really slows down. Then you reach the coast and Kill Devil Hills.”

After talking briefly about the project we were completing, we were able to takea picture with Alvin. I mean, it’s not everyday you get to meet a WASP, Polish Honorary Consul!


International Festival: Raleigh

By Caroline Zybala – 2014

IMG_8505Our first stop for our entire Highway 64 project was the International Festival, held in Raleigh. When we looked at the event online, we decided that we definitely had to attend and see what it entailed. With our busy schedules, we could only all attend on the Sunday of the event, but we were sure there would still be exciting things happening on the last day of the festival.

After parking in a parking deck, we trekked towards the convention center, followed by families who were there to experience the event like us, and those who were clearly part of the festival in some manner–dress in traditional clothing from various countries. Seeing these individuals made us excited to enter the festival and check out all the different countries represented.

IMG_3774When our ticket purchases scanned, we peaked over the railing to see the entire festival spread out below us. We were amazed at the number of booths and people milling around. There were several stages scattered around the center, with various groups lined up to perform their traditional dances, songs, and cultural traditions.IMG_3770

We descended the escalator, and consulted our maps to attempt to navigate the large sprawl of the event. We decided that if we were going to eat something, it should be at the beginning since we had plans to visit a restaurant when we were finished at the festival. We headed to the far end of the setup, and began to slowly make our way down the aisles of booths, assaulted by the sights and smells of many foreign looking foods. There were some food that we could recognize, like bubble tea and pierogies, but for the majority, we had to look at the pictures provided next to the names in order to understand what was being offered. A few of the countries offered samples, which we approached with caution, as we often didn’t know what it was.

IMG_3777With a few items purchased, we briefly sat down to watch a cooking demonstration of pad thai. From what we observed, it was actually quite simple, and we talked amongst ourselves about how delicious it smelled. We had also assumed we as the audience were going to receive some samples of the food, but unfortunately, luck was not on our side.

With plans to watch an African dance, we had some time to kill before we had to take our seats at the main stage. Weaving through the various booths, our group was intrigued by all of the items the various had for purchase. Miranda was particularly drawn to the booths with jewelry, especially one with a cool necklaces from South Africa. Each of the different booths had specific items that clearly represented their individual cultures. From traditional scarves, paintings, and statues, the countries were proudly showcasing their products to festival visitors like us.

It was time for the African dance show to start, we took our seats in front of the main stage and settled in for a unique experience. Throughout the whole performance, one of the dancers played the drums, which helped keep the energy of the dancers high and the audience engaged. The leader of the dance, an elderly man, explained the traditional aspects of their dance, and led the audience in an interactive portion of the performance. Being an engaging and personable individual, the man truly made the audience get off their feet and become part of the performance. Towards the end of the dance, they invited different individuals onto the stage, wanting them to represent different cultures who were coming together for one purpose. The woman who was sitting behind us went on stage, and we smiled as her friends and family cheered her on and made funny comments. One of the young boys who went on stage stole the show, by jumping in front of everyone and dancing like he had been born to do. He drew quite a few laughs from the audience members as we continued to play his small instrument even after everyone else had stopped dancing.

IMG_8507After this show, we continued to wander the stands, looking to experience more cultures while we were at the event. Jenna and Miranda took the opportunity to try on traditional saris, while Kelley and I stayed outside the circle of chairs that had been constructed around the women offering the clothing. After snapping a few pictures, we began to look for the booth that was writing people’s names in different language, for free, of course. We had seen people carrying strips of bright paper with what assumed were their names, and we wanted to investigate for ourselves. After looking through all the booths, we finally found the short lines of people waiting to have their names written in Chinese or Arabic, in their respective booths. The four of us decided to capitalize on this free item, seeing that we didn’t want to spend too much money on our trip as a whole.

Blissful Barbecue: The Pit

By Kelley Dodge – 2014

IMG_8509Driving through downtown Raleigh, it would be easy for one to miss the Pit, a barbecue restaurant situated in a restored 1930s meatpacking warehouse. Seeking out this hidden gem,we arrived at the Pit with high expectations due to its prominent reputation. The Pit has been featured in magazines Bon Appétit, Southern Living,Men’s Health, GQ, Imbibe, Delta ,and Food Network, in addition to many television shows like the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food, NBC’s The Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS’s The Morning Show. The Pit even won a rib challenge on the Food Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

Walking up to the ordinary looking brick building, we were pleasantly surprised with the swanky, contemporary décor on the interior. Even better was the smoky smell of barbecue filling the room. We were greeted by an enthusiastic hostess and seated in the center of the main dining room, left to browse the menus and admire the eccentric artwork on the walls. Our waiter, a blonde-hair, blue-eyed boy about our age, was a shy, soft-spoken fellow, but tolerated our questions, often smiling and blushing. “What is with all these abstract paintings on the wall?” Miranda inquires. “Are you art students?” Taylor responds. After assuring him that we certainly were not art students, he shared that instead of going to college he decided to become a waiter at the Pit. While he did not have a personal interpretation of the painting above the table across from it, he recounted an interpretation of a previous guest, stating that the loops and wings in the painting represent “movement.” Taylor also explained that all of the paintings displayed in the restaurant were by local artists, and many of them were for sale.IMG_3776

This “local” theme continued in the Pit’s menu. The pigs used in the Pit’s barbecue are all free-range animals from local North Carolina farms. Additionally, all produce featured in appetizers, sides, and desserts are fresh and locally grown. Browsing the menu there was an assortment of salads, sandwiches, and meat and vegetarian options to choose from, as well as thirteen different choices of sides. All of the barbecued entrees came with the choice of “Eastern NC Style” which was prepared in the vinegar-based sauce. The other option was to order the meat “lightly seasoned and ready to sauce” with a more traditional, homemade barbecue sauce.

When Taylor returned to the table to take our order, Caroline, a North Carolina native, opted for the “Eastern NC Style” chopped barbecue pork, while I stuck with the “ready to sauce” version of the pulled pork. Miranda and Jenna opted for some non-traditional dishes with Miranda ordering barbecue tofu and Jenna ordering chopped barbecue turkey. Each dish came with two sides, so we ordered an assortment of French fries, sweet potato fries, fried okra, and macaroni and cheese.

Less than ten minutes later a server was setting dishes in front of us, allowing us to take in the mouthwatering smells. When the food was served, we were in paradise; not only was each entrée accompanied by two sides, but each plate was also served with crispy, golden brown hush puppies and the most divine biscuit I have ever eaten.The macaroni and cheese was also delicious, baked with some chunks of crispy cheddar cheese. Then there was the meat (and tofu) that was cooked to perfection. As we dug into our entrees, the table immediately fell silent with pleasure. Though we did not order drinks, we were offered a drink menu upon arrival and read that all of the spirits served at The Pit are handpicked to enhance the smokiness and spiciness of the barbecue. For most entrees there was a suggestion of specific wines and beers to pair with the barbecue. They also offer a selection of bourbon whiskey, drinks that further enhance the barbecue’s flavor.

IMG_8510When Taylor came to deliver the check, he was impressed by our clean plates. I, for one, ate every last bit of food, savoring my last few bites. We paid a very reasonable amount for our lunch, just $8.99 per meal, which considering the amount of food is a great deal. As we left the Pit, although our stomachs were stuffed, we were already craving more. Of all the barbecue joints that I have tried, the food, ambience, and price at the Pit is unbeatable. Whether you are a North Carolina native or just passing through, this hidden gem is a must for any barbecue lover.

A Delicious Chat

By Jenna Hokanson – 2014

Lexington, North Carolina has been my home for my entire life. I’ve never moved or spent as much time anywhere as I have in this town. Even though I don’t know nearly as much as I’d like to know about this town, there is one aspect of Lexington that I’ve thoroughly examined: the food.

There is no place in the world that I have eaten at more than Café 35 in Downtown Lexington. Ever since the Café opened in October of 2005, my theatre friends and I have found ourselves visiting it repeatedly during rehearsals and shows at the Civic Center downtown. The Café has been my favorite place for so long, I even had my 16th birthday party there! The reason the Café is my favorite place may be because they have the best chicken salad I have ever tasted. The salad contains grapes that compliment it perfectly or it might just be the homemade chips with homemade ranch dressing on the side. I’m physically having reactions to the idea of the taste at this moment. Although the taste of the food is delicious, one thing that has always drawn my family and friends to this spot is the staff: They never fail to have smiles on their faces and welcome those of us without a question. Although it was always rare for restaurants to be so accepting of rumbustious theatre teens growing up- but Café 35 welcomed and still welcomes us with open arms.

Upon my visits, a nice blonde woman dressed in an outfit reminiscent of the professional women in the community, would always recognize me and speak to me about my pursuits. She always commented on watching me grow up and how she loved what all of her frequent customers were becoming. Once I knew we’d be doing this project, my first thought was to find out more about her instead of always answering questions about myself.

My mom, dad, and I took advantage of the fact that I had to interview the owner of Café 35 and decided to eat some of their delicious foods while we were at it! I got lucky we come when almost no one was there (a rarity) and she was available to chat. She said she’d speak to me anytime and to go ahead and order my food. I ordered my typical Lu’s Crossaint Chicken Salad Sandwich with Hot Chips and walked over to speak with the women I’ve always been curious to know.

She guided me to a nearby table and introduced herself as Linda Gosselin. She explained to me that this was her idea of retirement- that’s how active of a person she is. She and her husband decided to retire to a house on a lake in Lexington and purchase two restaurants- one in Greensboro and one here. “I like money!”, she joked. This coming year will be 12 years for Linda living in Lexington and 10 years that Café 35 has been in business.

When discussing the perks of living in such a small town, she decided that the town itself doesn’t always feel like it’s the best place to be, but the fact that several large cities are nearby allows for places to do fun activities.

Linda agreed with me in a sense that Downtown Lexington has developed significantly. She rightfully states that her restaurant became a starting point for the creation of small businesses downtown. Ever since Café 35 has been around, it became a necessity that the restaurant expand space and hours to meet the demand of the customers, 50% of which Linda states are from out of town on the weekends. The expansion of Lexington has grown as this restaurant grew. As a member of the community, I watched several boutiques, thrift stores, and other restaurants follow, or try to follow, the success that Café 35 has received. Linda in a way attributes the company’s success with the way they treat their customers, “I tell my employees to always pay special attention to the single women, children, and teens. That’s why I was always get so excited to see your group coming back. It’s because we make people feel welcome.”

While Café 35 has been a primary focus for Mrs. Gosselin, she is also an active community member on the board of Lexington. Because of this, I asked what improvements and new innovations are happening in the town. She spoke very generally about the idea of an Amtrak stop finding it’s way in the next two years, which would bring business from other states and from larger cities in the triad. There is also the possibility of Lexington connecting with Norfolk,VA through Southern railways. She feels this would help alleviate the number of people who left Lexington due to the closing of Lexington Home Brands, New Bridge, Duracell, and Cadillac. This event truly stripped the middle class down, but Lexington seems to be working it’s way up. Linda thinks that if the larger jobs were more open for the youth in the community, we’d have more people staying in Lexington, rather than immediately leaving once they’ve graduated college. The new mayor is also of the younger generation and she expects the council to grow into a younger mindset now that he has been elected.

Linda’s outlook on how the community at large can grow speaks to the fact that her restaurant has only been growing in popularity since I first fell in love with it as a young teen. Speaking with this spunky, driven, and well-spoken woman inspired me to look toward growth in my home. She was a true representation of the hints of gold that I’ve never taken the time to find in my home town until now. Her words filled me up. Almost as much as her delicious food.. almost.