A research participant once said to me:
“D.C. is east of the river. DC was Ben’s Chili Bowl [before it became popular]. D.C. is neighborhoods outside of the better known neighborhoods. D.C. is Mambo Sauce and Chicken Wings. D.C. is Go Go. DC is Carryouts. That’s D.C.”
The first time I heard about mumbo sauce was during an interview I was conducting for my dissertation. The interviewee asked, “Have you been put on to mumbo sauce yet?” I shook my head no, and he looked as if I had just cussed him out. “You need to try it.”
So Ricks and I did just that. A couple times in one weekend.
That weekend sparked our quest to discover “real D.C.” and to document it in this new series we’re calling “Around Town”. It will feature some of the fun, foolishness, and fashion we encounter as we explore.
Chicken Wings an Mumbo Sauce: A Taste of D.C. Culture
A friend turned us on to a free art exhibit that was happening last month called, “Chicken Wings and Mumbo Sauce.” The exhibit was developed in response to a widely publicized exhibit at the Corcoran called, “Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture in the 1980s.” The first exhibit featured local artists and the event’s namesake: chicken wings and mumbo sauce. It also helped kickoff our desire to really discover D.C.
What is mumbo sauce you ask? The short answer: no one really knows.
OK, people kinda know. It’s a condiment that every carryout in D.C. makes and is usually served with fresh-out-the-grease chicken wings. It’s a little different every where you go.
Some places make it spicier. Others make it sweeter, but ketchup and/or hot sauce seem to be the base ingredients. We were on a quest to sample this magical sauce that appears to be a part of growing up in The District.
We tried the mumbo sauce at the Chicken Wings and Mumbo Sauce event and honestly weren’t impressed — maybe because the chicken was cold and the sauce couldn’t do much to remedy that. Despite the cold chicken, we enjoyed the art, free beer, and general feel of the space. A diverse crowd vibin’ off each other’s energy. We dig it.
Pump Me Up: We Love Disco Dan!
The next day, we met up at the Corcoran to see the Pump Me Up exhibit. We wanted to see how the two compared to each other, plus admission to the event was FREE on the day we went. The exhibit was cool: posters, videos about go-go music, and an awesome mini-bio of Cool “Disco” Dan, a famed graffiti artist around these parts (who happens to be one of our new favorite people now, BTW).
Afterwards, we supported a friend who was speaking at a local university about food deserts in D.C. He dropped some serious knowledge about getting involved in communities and not making assumptions about the people you’re trying to help. Of course we worked up an appetite, so we hopped in the car and drove from upper Northwest/Northeast DC to a carryout called Yum’s for one more round of chicken wings and mumbo sauce.
The wings and mumbo sauce from Yum’s was a nice way to finish off an exciting weekend. I don’t know if we were just super hungry or if it was really that good, but either way, there was nothing but clean bones left in those Styrofoam containers when we were done.
This was our first dive into deep exploration of “The Real D.C.” Not the Hill. Not the White House. Everything beyond and in between. The artwork at both exhibits was really cool. We dig go-go music, so it was nice to learn more of the history of it and see some of the awesome posters.
Chicken wings & mumbo sauce? Check! Now we’re off to try another adventure. Check in with us weekly during the month of May to see where our feet (and public transportation) have taken us and feel free to recommend a “Real D.C.” spot we should explore.