The Alexandria South and the Mount Vernon Rotary Clubs hosted their second annual chili supper and dance party at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Richmond Highway last weekend. The evening featured homemade chili, music by Black Tie DJs and clogging lessons from the Bull Run Cloggers.
Mount Vernon Rotarian Marlene Free organized the supper. Raised in the Climax, GA [population 350], Free's first memories are of her Baptist Church Homecoming. Her grandmother, mother and aunts made every Southern dish imaginable while her role was to eat and behave. To this day, she returns to Homecoming on the first Sunday in April.
"It was a small Southern town," Free said. "If there was anything needed in the community, we cooked. Fish fries and homemade peach ice cream still support the high school scholarship program."
Over the years, Free has experimented with many cousines — Mexican, German, French Caribbean and all of the Asian. This grew out of an experience in the late sixties. While teaching at the Monterey California High School, Free was asked to develop a cooking class curriculum that reflected her students who came from all over the world.
"I invited their mothers to come and work with the class. Techniques were learned, but more importantly, friendships were formed that bridged tremendous cultural diversity."
MEN ARE HER favorite students. "They come with no preconceived ideas, so will try everything. Nothing is too hard. When my class consisted of the Monterey High School football team, we made things from the perfect grilled burger to dessert torts. Even now, when graduates of Hayfield High School come back from college to visit, they say that what they learned in their cooking class is the information they find most useful everyday," said Free.
Alexandria South Rotarian John Sykes was in charge of entertainment. "And why not clogging," asked Sykes who saw the Bull Run Cloggers perform at the Manassas fair. "We have tried tango and salsa."
The guests, whose knowledge of clogging was limited to a vague memory that cloggers had performed at state dinners at the Carter White House, agreed to try. Twenty minutes later, after a quick lesson and even quicker dance to the tune of "Cotton-eyed Joe," there were smiles all around as the dancers gasped for breath.
Proceeds support Rotary projects at Mount Vernon High School and Bryant Alternative High School.