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Friday, April 27, 2007

The Jamestown Settlement museum's message of global interconnection seems partly manifest, at least in the new gift shop, through the presence of . . . peach salsa and key lime mustard with ginger.

No, there's little historical or archaeological evidence that Jamestown's founding fathers packed such exotic provisions in the holds of the Susan Constant, Godspeed or Discovery before leaving England, or that those delicacies were among the foodstuffs introduced to the newcomers by the Powhatan Indians. Rather, they're examples of some of the generic museum-shop merchandise that pads out the more thematically correct offerings (which include a jumbo fort-building construction set, a create-your-own-parchment-document kit, cap guns, African crafts and Native American "warrior tea" from Nuwati Herbals). Commemorative merchandise marking the 400th anniversary also abounds.

It's a slightly different story at the Settlement Cafe, a new eatery offering a menu whose staples don't range far from the burgers, pizza, chicken tenders and vegetarian chili you might find at any high school cafeteria. Though I suppose the cafe's Brunswick stew (which some claim has its origins in Virginia's Brunswick County, others say in Georgia) comes closest to authenticity, it seems a shame not to offer visitors a chance to not just see but taste history.

Especially when they may have worked up an appetite watching some of the Settlement's costumed interpreters outside preparing such treats as lemon and cream cheese tarts, corn cakes and turkey and butternut squash soup.

Visitors to Historic Jamestowne next door will soon find a second dining option when the Dale House Cafe opens later this year, with a menu of sandwiches, soups and salads. Three additional shops are operated on the park grounds. The smallest of the three, at the Glasshouse, features hand-blown glassware. A second, at the Archaearium, focuses on archaeology and historical replicas. The third and largest, featuring an assortment of archaeological replicas and commemorative gifts, can be found in the park's new visitor center, an 18,000-square-foot facility that also offers a variety of orientation services, including interactive exhibits and "immersive" audiovisual programs in a 180-degree-view theater.

-- Michael O'Sullivan


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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