December 2015 Issue

  • Examining This Region's Lesser-Known Religions

    Our region is blessed by ethnic richness, having a center for Refugee and Immigration Services plus several medical centers, colleges and universities that recruit talent from around the world. For those who have left their motherland, congregations that share their language and traditions are vibrant, comforting spiritual and social anchors.

    The Southern Baptist Convention has been active in creating ethnic churches. To name a few:

    Korean Baptist Church on Starkey Road in Roanoke County can be reached at (540) 772-4222. Their active congregation’s website features photos of their adorable Vacation Bible School class and of their concert by the Philippines Gospel Choir-“The Miracle Team” in 2014.

    Roanoke Sinai Haitian Baptist Church was founded in 2013 and is located at 2905 Cove Road, (540) 342- 6492. Online, they state: “Sinai Baptiste church is the first Haitian-American in the Roanoke Valley.” The church aims “to bring all the Haitian community together to serve the Lord.” A video shows Pastor Castine Messadieu teaching Bible study in Haitian Creole.

    Lynchburg’s Baptist Iglesias de Las Americas has services in Spanish for its Mexican population. It is located at 104 Wessex Road, and Pastor Rev. Carlos Payan can be reached at (434) 237-5439.

    St Gerard’s Catholic Church at 809 Orange Avenue in Roanoke has served its African American neighborhood since 1946, and from 1996 has included bilingual mass for its Hispanic parishioners. Bishop Francis DiLorenzo celebrated a bilingual Mass for St. Gerard’s 60th anniversary on October 15, 2006, which culminated three days of celebration with the theme of “A House of Prayer For All People.” At the time, the parish had about 350 families comprised of African, African American, Hispanic, Caucasian, Asian and other ethnic backgrounds. Pastor is Rev. Fr. Mark White, (540) 343- 7744.

    Other regional religious/spiritual communities are less familiar to the majority of us. Here’s an overview of some of these:

    Hinduism

    Five hundred families belong to Roanoke’s Hindu Shantiniketan Temple at 7221 Branico Drive in Roanoke County. (There are two additional temples in Salem.) I visited this beautiful woodland setting,with colorful saris and lights, the sound of chanting, and the smell of Indian cooking and incense. The congregational meeting is called Satsang, a gathering for holy discussion and meditation in the presence of a guru, or pastor. Pastor Passad Muttar, from India’s Andhra Pradesh region, is part of a priestly family going back generations. Satsang is on Sundays from 4.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m., though timings can vary during special events, such as Diwali, November’s festival of lights. Member families take turns catering a dinner after each Satsang service. One should ask permission of the pastor to visit; in some temples, non-Hindus are not allowed, but our Shantiniketan Temple is very welcoming. They are praying for all of us, Muttar tells me, “for peace, peace, peace.”

    Hinduism is traceable to India 4,000 years ago. It is also referred to as Sanātana Dharma, “the eternal law” or “eternal way.” Hindus believe that every living being has a soul, and that soul is eternal. Belief in reincarnation is central.

    Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. They do not point to a founder of their religion; Hinduism is thought of having existed forever, mainly because rituals to worship natural things have existed since earliest human times.

    To western eyes Hinduism is complicated, allowing polytheism (many gods and goddesses), monotheism, and atheism. Hinduism has many named deities such as Brahma (creator), Vishnu (protector), Shiva (destroyer), Ganesh, Krishna and Lakshmi. All these are actually aspects of the singular God force. Hinduism is remarkable for its diversity and tolerance about beliefs. Hindus do not attempt to convert or recruit, they do not have a central religious director such as a pope or archbishop, nor do they have the precept of blasphemy.

    Hinduism’s fundamental book, the “Rig Veda,” was written more than 3,800 years ago. A familiar Hindu concept in the U.S. is Kharma, or as westerners say, “What goes around comes around.” Good or bad deeds done in life come back later in this life or in the next, bringing good fortune or bad, as determined by the gods. Yoga in Hinduism is not merely an exercise routine; it is a sacred path to spiritual growth. There are 16 important holy rites throughout Hindu life that are performed by a priest. Fifteen are held for important passages during life; the final sixteenth is the funeral service.

    Islam

    I was privileged to speak with Dr. Hesham Rakha, whose many honors and titles include Director of the Center for Sustainable Mobility at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. He is one of four Trustees of the Board of Al-Ihsan Mosque in Blacksburg, where 200 to 300 people come to Friday prayers.

    The foundation of Islam begins with God, whom Muslims call Allah, which literally means “the one and only God.” “Arab Christians and Jews say ‘Allah’ when they talk about God,” Dr. Rakha writes, “The Quran declares that Allah is the same God that spoke to the Jews and Christians (29:46): “Tell [the Jews and Christians], ‘We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us [the Quran] and in that which came down to you [the Torah and Gospel]; Our God and your God is one; and it is to Him we surrender.”

    Islam has Six Articles of Faith which take in belief in God; belief in the angels of God; belief in the revealed Books of God-Scrolls of Abraham (Suhuf), the Law of Moses (Torah), the Psalms of David (Zabur), the Gospel of Jesus (Injeel), and the Reading of Muhammad (Quran). Muslims believe in God’s many prophets, from Adam to the penultimate Jesus, to the final prophet Muhammad. There will be a Day of Judgment, and afterlife (Jesus will return to lead this); and, belief in the divine measurement of human affairs and the supremacy of God’s will.

    There are Five Pillars of Islamic faith, to help Muslims achieve God awareness and piety (Taqwa).

    Shahadah: Declaring allegiance to God/Allah.
    Salat: Five daily prayers
    Zakat: Annual obligatory charity
    Saum: Fasting the month of Ramadan
    Hajj: The pilgrimage to Mecca for those who are capable of doing so.

    Visiting a Mosque, or Masjid, requires you wear modest, “well-covering” clothes. Gentlemen may wear shirts and pants, no shorts. Ladies should wear long sleeve, well-covering clothes, and head cover. Shoes are taken off at the entrance. Mosques generally have separate entrances and seating sections for men and women.

    Vandals broke windows, hurled objects and insults when they attacked the Masjid An-Nur of Roanoke last July. Masjid An-Nur is open “all days,” according to its website, so I go as the call to noontime prayer begins. This young man is the Muezzin. It is an awesome sound. I give my name explaining my mission is for goodwill. I am allowed in, but the leader of the mosque is not in today, and no one present is authorized to speak with the public. I ask to attend the prayer service and am led up stairs to the women’s section, a large plain room with carpeting and a row of folding chairs. (Folding chairs, I am realizing, are one of the common features of all sacred places in America.)

    I sit alone until a young woman arrives with her toddler. She is dressed head to toe in a black silk sari-like garment with silver trim. She welcomes me and introduces herself as “Hafsa.” She tells me she is from Niger, Western Africa, by way of Montreal, where she attended Catholic schools.

    Imam begins the prayer. Five verses are chanted, with silence increasing between each repetition. It is meditative, even without knowing the words. Hafsa tells me that strict Muslim men attend all five daily prayer gatherings at the mosque. For women, she explains, it is advisable to pray at home, as “women must be protected.” Marriage is a religious obligation for Muslims, as is fasting during the month of Ramadan.

    Hafsa later walks with me to the parking lot, and asks if I have read the Quran. I admit I haven’t. “When you read it you will find it is beautiful and makes you feel so peaceful inside,” she says. She wants me to know that Islam and Christianity have much in common. The more I learn about it, I agree.

    Masjid An-Nur is at 3718 Salem Turnpike, Roanoke, VA 24017. Corelli Rasheed, leader; (540) 342-7688.

    The Islamic Center in Blacksburg is at 1284 N Main St. Blacksburg, VA 24060. Dr. Hesham Rakha, leader; (540) 961- 5210.

    GLIA Mosque in Lynchburg is at 1105 Airport Road, Lynchburg, VA 24502. Maqsud Ahmad, leader; (434) 841-6829 (cell).

    Buddhism is not a religion, but a lifelong discipline promoting good mental clarity and health. Buddhism is an outgrowth of Hinduism, and Buddha is considered a messenger/prophet of Allah.

    Siddhartha Gautama, founder of Buddhism, lived in India approximately 560 to 480 BCE. Son of a warrior-king, he led an extravagant life until adulthood. Bored with his royal life, he wandered into the world and came face-to-face with an old man, an ill man, a corpse and an ascetic. The suffering of human existence shocked Gautama. He renounced his status, became a monk living without possessions in order to clearly see the world around him. Meditating beneath a tree, he realized how to be free from suffering, and ultimately, to achieve salvation. After this epiphany, Gautama was called “The Buddha,” meaning the “Enlightened One.”

    The Buddha spent the remainder of his life teaching others this revelation, called The Dharma, or Four Noble Truths. Most simply stated: suffering exists; it has a cause; it has an end; and it has a way to bring about its end. This pragmatic perspective deals with the world as it is, and attempts to rectify it.

    The Four Noble Truths enfold a plan for dealing with the physical and mental suffering humans face. First Truth: Face the presence of suffering. Second Truth: Name the cause of suffering. In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering. Desire is craving pleasure, material goods, and immortality, wants that can never be totally satisfied, so desiring them ultimately brings suffering. Ignorance, another cause of suffering, is failure to see the world as it actually is. Without developing the capacity for mental concentration and insight, Buddhism explains, one’s mind is left unable to grasp the true nature of things. Vices, such as greed, envy, hatred and anger, derive from this ignorance.

    The Third Noble Truth is the end of suffering: either through death, or through achieving Nirvana. One who has achieved Nirvana is free from suffering, as spiritual enlightenment has been reached. Fourth: the way to the end of suffering is the Noble Eight-fold Path: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

    Kharma refers to good or bad actions a person makes during a lifetime: good deeds bring happiness in the long run, bad deeds bring unhappiness. Kharma plays out in the Buddhism cycle of rebirth. To be born human is, to Buddhists, a precious chance at spiritual bliss, a rarity that one should not forsake.

    Kadam Deann Bishop is the founder and leader of Roanoke’s Darmapala Kadampa Buddhist Center. Bishop studied for 20 years in the Mahayana tradition, which focuses on teaching/helping others. The meditation area sparkles with artwork and candles. Classes are open to all for a small fee and group meditation is available most days of the week. The center is looking for a new home but is currently housed at 315 Albemarle Avenue SE in Roanoke. Contact at (540) 521-7989. Resources are at: www.meditationinvirginia.org.

    To read more:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rigveda
    quora.com/What-is-the-origin-of-Hinduism
    www.quora.com/What-are-the-most-interesting-facts-about-Hinduism pbs.org/edens/thailand/buddhism.htm

     

  • Understanding Your Health

    Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in America. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control reports that about 610,000 Americans die from heart disease each year – that’s one in every four deaths.

    Even though those numbers may seem daunting, there are basic lifestyle changes that can help you to feel better and reduce your risk of heart disease. Here are a few tips to improve your heart health:

    Get moving

    The American Heart Association recommends adults get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking), five times per week. Children should be active for 60 minutes each day, every day. Physical activity can increase your quality and length of life while also reducing your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

    Practice good nutrition

    Changing eating habits can be difficult, but following a healthy diet is one of the most powerful ways to fight heart disease. Eating fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grain foods and fish supports a healthful diet. Cutting back on saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and added sugars, while limiting sodium intake also benefits the heart.

    Manage your blood pressure

    Often called “the silent killer,” uncontrolled blood pressure often has no symptoms but can have devastating effects. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and heart failure. Some people require prescription medication to manage their blood pressure, but lifestyle changes can be extremely effective. Managing stress, limiting alcohol, avoiding smoking, being active and eating healthy all reduce blood pressure.

    Manage your weight

    Being overweight puts you at an increased risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. On top of that, extra weight puts a burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. Losing weight is a simple math equation – you need to burn off more calories than you consume. Find out the recommended caloric intake for your age, gender and level of physical activity, and then keep track of calories you consume.

    Quit smoking

    As soon as you quit smoking, your lungs can begin to heal. Smokers have a higher risk of developing heart disease, so quitting is beneficial to improved health. Smoking damages the circulatory system while increasing your risk for coronary heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysm and blood clots.

    If you have any of the signs of a heart attack, acting fast can improve your chances for recovery and survival. Call 911 immediately if you or a loved one experiences any of these common signs of a heart attack:

     - Pressure or squeezing in the center of the chest

     - Shooting pain that spreads to shoulders, arms, neck or jaw

     - Nausea, dizziness, fainting or sudden abnormal sweating

     - Shortness of breath

     - Heartburn or indigestion-like pain

     - Women may experience abdominal pain and weakness

  • Art Spot: Quiet Things, Unbound

    The landscape of Southwest Virginia with its Blue Ridge mountains cradling the New River Valley is what I love most about this region. Coming from three years in the empty prairies of North Texas and the suburban sprawl of rooftops for miles, where the warm winters hold a seemingly endless season of leafless trees, the Valley in contrast has been a welcome change. The scale and density of the mountains glazed with blue washes of color, the monstrous summer kudzu and the dogwood’s fuchsia sprinkled throughout the woods in the early spring infuse the area with a clear light and color. 

    It may be said that the landscape of a region may have a powerful effect on the work of an artist. It is therefore apropos that my first artist interview was with Sidra Kaluszka. Sidra, a homegrown artist, was born in Blacksburg, raised and thus far educated in the New River Valley. She obtained her MFA from Radford University in Ceramics and Watercolor in 2010 and has been exhibiting professionally in local galleries all over Virginia. She has consistently won multiple awards for her ceramics and her watercolor paintings in nationally juried shows and her work may be found in galleries in Richlands, Floyd, Newport News and Blacksburg. She is also a member of the Blue Ridge Potter’s Guild and the Virginia Watercolor Society.

    As an artist of color she is a second generation, bi-racial American of Japanese and Polish descent. Her mother is Japanese and originally Canadian and her father comes from Detroit. Although half Japanese, she unfortunately has yet to visit Japan. As her grandparents lived in Canada, and her mother was raised there, ties to a homeland other than America are a little far removed. Though bi-racial and bi-cultural, Sidra’s family experience is typically American and tended toward the American cultural norms. There were foods such as tofu that occasionally inserted themselves into her mother’s rituals, but for the most part her experience has been that of a Southwest Virginian.

    Sidra related that it was not until college that she began to research and discover her interest in Asian philosophies and aesthetics. These discoveries have helped shape some of her reflections on her art practice, but don’t seem to directly inform her methods in either the ceramic or water-based mediums. Very often when people see ethnicity, they assume traditions and aesthetic priorities. These assumptions need to be thrown out when it comes to Americans of color. Place, experience, education, society, these are the sharpening stones that shape the direction and form of an artist’s work. In Sidra’s case I would pose that the New River Valley’s landscape and experience have meaningfully informed the scope of her work thus far. The forces of nature I feel so present in our local landscape seem to subtly teem like an underlying current in Sidra’s paintings and sculptures.

    Sidra’s primary inspiration began with her discovery and love of Georgia O’Keefe’s work. This is evident in her watercolors, where she focuses her attention to rendering small objects from nature in larger visual formats. According to Sidra, her main impetus for art making comes from a desire to create an “expression of a love for the small and quiet.” The painting “Summer’s Reflections” is a close-up of ripe persimmons, and the image titled, “Tomorrow’s hope” is also an intimate examination of a spice bush. These are everyday diminutive subjects and common to still lives. Regardless, her technique and perspective specifically in “Tomorrow’s hope,” offer the viewer an intimate invitation to both relish the sweetness of the greens and inhale the flush of light reflecting warmly on the berries.

    Her watercolors are vividly painted with saturated colors, in multiple layers; a process with the medium that requires time and patience. She generally sketches out her compositions with pencil and then adds washes of color, building up the image. The nature of watercolors is to use the white of the paper, thus the risk in adding layers is the possibility of negating the light. The best watercolors do not always present a full spectrum of color. More importantly, one should see a fresh transparent luminosity to the color and light in an image. The light seems to percolate beneath the washes of color in Sidra’s paintings, and this is likely why she wins so many local awards.

    Sidra’s vases, in contrast, also reference nature but seem to address form and structure that is more complex than the immediate seduction of color in her paintings. It is easy to trace the path of Sidra’s hand in the construction of her vases, and that too offers a unique experience with her vision. The works are medium-sized around 5.5” x 9”, thus they are large enough to have weight and intimate enough to fit neatly in one’s palm. The wonderful thing about ceramics is that they are meant to be touched and held. The works not only engage the eyes, but the hands as well. Sidra’s clay of choice is porcelain; a very smooth and very white clay. Her process involves first throwing the basic form on a wheel and then hand building and shaping the finished piece.

    Reminiscent of art from the Art Nouveau period, indicated by lyrical lines, organic shapes and decorative embellishments, Sidra’s ceramic vases, like flowers, draw the viewer into her world. In her current series the vases are perforated with multiple irregular-sized apertures along the top walls of the pieces. Adding to the organic forms and the flow of the pieces, these apertures are reminiscent of the holes worn in shells by the sand and ocean. The effect of these holes is a little unsettling in their irregularity, and almost ungainly in their large proportion to the whole. This seeming disproportion suggests a form and pattern not meant to be delicate or simply decorative. The vase after careful observation is not simply a vessel painted and decorated with flowers, it almost wants to be a plant itself. My favorite piece titled, “The wide ladyslipper,” is like an egg or a pod inviting me to dive in through the peep hole, curl up inside and allow the forest to safely grow around me.

    As I have said, art is a personal experience. Where you go with an image or a sculpture may be entirely different, or even contrary, to my experience. Either way, I encourage your journey with these works. You may or may not personally respond to Sidra’s work, but if you do I would also encourage you to learn more about them and see them in person. Finally, if you can see yourself in a relationship with one of these works, then buy it. You do not have to be a wealthy to be a patron. In fact, participating in the patronage of an artist shows you understand and want to participate in a world that values: authenticity, craft, vision, creativity, unique perspectives and the time devoted to these values. On this matter I am certain that Sidra would agree. Check out her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Sidrak.Art.\

  • Meet the 'Mother Hen' of Local Latinos

    “One time I went to the Dollar Store to get something to drink and I notice this girl there,” Vivian Sanchez-Jones began telling a story. She was referring to a young Hispanic girl that should have been in school at that time of day.

    “And I turn around and ask her who she was with,” Sanchez-Jones continued. “She said, ‘I’m with my mom.’ I said, ‘Okay,’ and I walked around. I saw her again, still alone, and I said, ‘I still don’t see your mom.’ She said, ‘How do you know my mom?’ I said, ‘I enrolled you in kindergarten.’”

    Sanchez-Jones then busted the girl and her two friends and drove them back to school, and the school called their parents.

    Meet Mother Hen.

    Sanchez-Jones knows many such children personally since she is the Public School Liaison for Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC). She has been with the organization working with Roanoke’s Spanish-speaking community since 2004.

    Another story she told took place at a gas station. Sanchez-Jones had stopped for gas when she noticed a boy driving a car; she knew he was only 14 years old. She pulled out in front of him to stop him and said, “Get out of the car,” and handled it from there.

    Her days are full of phone calls to colleagues and families of students, sharing information between parties. In one such phone call she spoke in Spanish to a mom to explain what paperwork needed to be done to change her child’s school, and explained how to do it. Some days, she’ll send 200 individual text messages to let people know school is closed.

    However, Sanchez-Jones’ journey had many stops before Roanoke.

    She moved to New York from her country of birth, the Dominican Republic, when she was 14 years old. Her mom raised her in Manhattan and she later attended Baruch College for business and Spanish literature

    “My husband gets on my case saying, ‘You don’t read anymore,’” she laughed. “But you know, by the time I do my nails, it’s time to go to sleep.” She recalled some of her favorite books as Cien Años de Soledad and In the Time of Butterflies.

    In 1980 she met Tom Jones, an American as the name suggests, in New York. He would become her husband of 33 years and counting. After graduation, she began managing a clothing store. “I couldn’t dress myself but I could dress others!” she joked.

    Ready for a change, Sanchez-Jones and her husband moved to Colorado.

    She started as a teacher’s aide and eventually became a community liaison much like she is now in Roanoke.

    Around this time, many Latinos were moving to Aspen, and so Sanchez-Jones joined a Latino-Anglo task force to address community issues. Later, she became the director of a family literacy center after being approached by several different people at different times encouraging her to apply.

    In that role, Sanchez-Jones ended up reallocating half her salary to open a childcare for parents enrolled in community college. She also started a Thanksgiving celebration for Spanish-speakers learning English that grew to more than a thousand attendees over the years.

    One issue Sanchez-Jones dealt with in Colorado was racism, and it wasn’t necessarily between groups that one might guess. “The U.S. isn’t the only place dealing with prejudice,” she said. “We have prejudice in our countries too,” referring to Latin America and tension between Latino subcultures in the United States.

    She recalled the words of one boy from Mexico being bullied by other Mexicans. “They make fun of me because I’m dark and they’re light,” he said.

    Sometimes issues were with orphans. Joel Ruiz was the first child, an orphan, whose community college education Sanchez-Jones funded. He crossed the border alone with his three siblings. They were teenagers. “Sometimes people [cross the border] with families, and sometimes they just pay a coyote,” she said.

    Her time in Colorado was followed by four years on the mission field in her home country, the Dominican Republic, where her heart yearned to be. The move was also in line with her strong identification with the Christian faith. There she coordinated development and relief efforts with her husband.

    When it was time to come back to the United States, she knew it had to be somewhere warmer than New York, but still close enough to visit. Also, “I didn’t want to be the token Latina,” she added. So, in 2002, she and her family moved to Roanoke, also because they knew missionaries in Lynchburg.

    In Roanoke, Sanchez-Jones was part of a committee that coordinated the first Latino Festival in 2004 that still takes place today. “It had a name,” she said. “It was the Latino Task Force.” There were six other women in the group: Yolanda Puyana, Aggie Sirrine Romero, Victoria Brown, Rosalia Muñoz, Lucy Temez, and Claudia de Franco. H.A.C.I.E.N.D.A., founded by Puyana, has continued the festival ever since.

    In 2014, Sanchez-Jones also founded Avancemos, an organization that provided advocacy, youth, and health programs until 2014. She has also served on many local and state-level committees and boards.

    It won’t come as a surprise that Sanchez-Jones was the recipient of Community School’s Martin Luther King Local Hero Award in 2007 and DePaul Community Resources’ Women of Achievement Award in 2012.

    If you ask Sanchez-Jones why she does what she does, she’ll tell you: “I like helping my community and want to empower them.”

    About the author:

    Keisha Graziadei-Shup is the founding executive editor of the Spanish-English news website, LaConexionVa.org, a program of Blue Ridge Literacy.

  • Town Kitchen and Provisions Showcases Homemade Foods

    It was definitely the tables in the courtyard and seating in what they have named the “Wine Solarium” that had me yearning for spring, even though fall is my favorite season. At Town Kitchen and Provisions in Bedford, I am almost positive that during the spring those tables are prime real estate for the lunch bunch, perfect for watching things come alive. There are, however, things on the inside of this restaurant that is stationed in a historical home to hold your attention as well. Things like the local artwork hanging on the walls or the eclectic mix of items in the gift shop such as aprons, wine corks and seasonally themed cocktail napkins. Then there is the “open” kitchen that makes it possible for you to converse with the kitchen staff as they put in culinary work.

    The menu at Town Kitchen is just as eclectic in its offerings and everything, in my opinion, looks good enough to try. I was excited to learn that everything is homemade with the exception of the bread, which comes from New York. On our visit my husband and I ordered a couple of the suggested menu favorites from John the manager, and also a “middle of the road” selection. Each specialty sandwich is served with a side item; the options range from macaroni and cheese to pasta salad and are rotated out regularly. We also noticed cookies and other homemade goodies at the register but decided not to indulge. As I move forward, remember, everything is homemade … all the way to the dressings on the sandwiches.

    While we waited for our meals, we selected a table in the solarium and noticed they have a good selection of craft beers, an item that has been gaining popularity in recent years. We decided that we would definitely create a six-pack to take home. John soon brought out our meals and switched our table so that we had plenty of room to enjoy our food (thank you, John!). The sandwiches are served on small metal trays and the sides placed in a small paper “boat.” This vessel almost doesn’t fit the rest of the meal as it reminds me more of a fry tray at a fast food place than at a sit-down restaurant.

    My husband chose The Woody with a side of Beef Lentil Orzo Stew. The Woody is a corned beef reuben on marbled rye bread; my husband is a sucker for this particular sandwich and always compares any corned beef to his mother’s. This one did not disappoint. The corned beef is slow-roasted, thinly sliced, tender and not overly salted. The sauerkraut, pickles, and Russian dressing all complement the meat and the slight bitterness of the soft rye bread. The flavorful tomato-based beef lentil orzo stew he picked out as a side contained stewed tomatoes, ground beef, lentils, corn, chili spices, and orzo. This side would be perfect on a fall day as it is hearty and very warming.

    My sandwich of choice was the Friar Cluck. This is a fried chicken sandwich with coleslaw, pickle and house-made sauce served on a Kaiser roll. While my first choice would not be to add coleslaw to a chicken sandwich, it surprisingly works. The chicken itself was tender, not overly breaded, and well-seasoned, and the slaw and pickles added crunch and sweetness. On this sandwich, I believe the additional sauce is not needed because of the moisture that is present from the other elements. I chose pasta salad as my side and it is a pretty traditional one. Think elbow macaroni, mayonnaise, pickle and a bit of diced red pepper. On my visit it was light and the pasta was cooked well, taking me back to when my mom always brought pasta salad to pot-luck style picnics.

    The Falafel Feta wrap, our “middle of the road” vegetarian selection, will be sure to please even if you indulge in meat. This wrap is filled with crispy falafel, thinly sliced cucumber and tomato, lentils, feta, hummus, and a yogurt dill dressing. The wrap was flavorful, and the falafel does not get lost in the mix of the other ingredients. It was a bit messy to eat but we believe they knew that beforehand because you are provided with a knife and fork. The lentil salad we had as a side was nothing to write home about. The lentils are dense, maybe a bit undercooked, and contained finely diced red onion, green pepper and potentially an acid such as lemon juice.

    Even though I was not able to personally interview owners Jared and Melanie Srsic, they have a good amount of information about themselves on the website (thank you webmaster) to their other restaurant, The Millstone Tea Room.

    “Jared’s family name comes from the country of Croatia and Melanie’s families hail from the town of Altavista, Virginia. Both have had formal and informal training throughout their careers in and around the professional kitchen. Melanie was never short of gastronomic trips with her parents to New York City and her delicate pastry hand was readily learned at the apron strings of her grandmothers both, aptly named, Virginia. Italian & Croatian heritage on Jared’s side didn’t hurt the intuitive nature of his cooking approach, claiming he “thinks Italian” even when cooking collard greens. Both attempt to establish a conscious connection between the Old World and American southern cookery that they love so much. This is not an ethnic or “country cookin” restaurant, but a modern American interpretation of Melanie and Jared’s love of family, timeless classic cooking and Southern hospitality.”

    You can discover all that Town Kitchen and Provisions has to offer at 309 North Bridge Street in Bedford Tuesday through Friday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. John assured my husband and I that if we wanted to call ahead to (540) 586-0321 to place an order, that it would be ready when we arrived. You don’t want to miss out on this sandwich shop and pick up a little information while there about the historically registered home of Episcopalian Clergyman John A. Wharton, built in 1848, in which it is housed.

  • Editor's Note

    “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty,the ocean does not become dirty.”

    -- Mahatma Gandhi

    “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

    -- Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

    In our December issue, we take a look at the different faiths in our community. We look at how it affects individual lives, and how people in our community look at how they make decisions in regards to their families, work, and their friends with which they are connected.

    Faith and religion is a private subject that a lot of people don’t talk openly about. It’s often an inappropriate topic that we are taught not to discuss, like politics. However, our faith evaluates our purpose in the world and how we look at that world.

    We visit the faiths of Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism in this issue and really try to understand why people look for a spiritual guidance or peaceful connection. With recent events of terrorist attacks that cause a radicalized view or distorted view of different religions, we at ColorsVA think that it is important that our community understand what these faiths mean to those who practice them, and how our fellow Americans find peace within.

    When we created ColorsVA magazine our mission was to provide perspectives of all cultures that live and work in this great community. I urge you to open your mind and understand what possible misconceptions you might or don’t have, and be used to provide compassion and understanding to one another. Isn’t that what faith is about?

    Happy Holidays to you from our ColorsVA family!

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