The smell of curried goat cooked India style mixed with the aroma of barbecued chicken from George Avenue yesterday to provide a background for 2-year-old Jacob Harris first taster of pungent and flavorful Chinese sweet and sour pork.
Jacob, who was seated on a trash can at the fifth annual Streets for People City Celebration along F and G Streets between 7th and 10th Streets NW yesterday, sneered at the first forkful but his eyes brightened and his mouth opened wide for the second try. Within minutes the outside of his mouth covered with sweets and sour sauce. In a few more minutes his hands were dripping with the tangy sauce too, after he tried to skip the fork and shovel the Chinese dish straight into his mouth.
"Basically we wanted to go to the library," said Jacob's mother, Susan Uleman. "But the food is so seductive we haven't made it yet."
Behind Jacob and his mother dozens of sounds, sight and smells hung in the autumn air.
In one corner of the space under a huge green and white tent top, men in white turbans and long robes were hawking thick, meaty sandwiches in an Egyptian singsong with their deep voices.
Across the Mall a folk singer played her guitar and sang to a strolling crowd. Pompon girls from Clark Elementary School at 7th and Webster Streets NW dance to rock music across from the folk singer and a classical group and a barbershop quartet played still farther down the Mall.
Between the acts and the stands of international cuisine the streets were lined with men and women selling jewelry and handmade articles.
One man, William Jacobs, who said he was a doctor was selling herbs and tree bark "for whatever may ail you."
Paul Valentine, a peanut vendor who usually does business outside the Justice Department on Pennsylvania Avenue was doing business downtown today for this thing," said Valentine, who wore a large blue hat.
The first day of the three-day Streets for People Celebration yesterday turned into an orgy of eating food from many parts of the world.
Beatrice Harris, who was with her grandson Salerno Mosely, 6, said they had tried West Indian rice and chicken and some pone, a sweet dessert, also from the West Indian table in the hour they had been at the celebration.
"We came down to see Spiderman at the Hecht Co. but we've been eating since we saw what happening here," she said, "We'll both have to take a dose of castor oil tonight," she said, smiling at Salerno.
Mayor Walter E. Washington gave a brief speech after touring the food stands and said his mouth was still burning from one of the dishes he tried.
I'm still looking for the water," he told the audience, "I don't know what it was, but it was good and it was hot."
Two elderly women Addie Mae Munns and Gilpin Walker, met for the first time as they sat down to eat. Munns said she "stepped off the bus and found this. What luck."
She was eating yucca and Spanish steak. Walter said she had finished an Egyptian walnut and honey dish and matabre from Paraguay, a sandwich whose ingredients included hard boiled eggs, beef and lettuce.
"It's all very good and nonfattening. I'm sure," she said. Laughing with Munns.
Minutes later the women agreed it was nice to be downtown eating good food and meeting new people on a Saturday.
"Seems like the life is coming back to downtown." siad Walker. "It is awfully busy for a Saturday."
Not everyone agreed, though, as young men dressed in flannel shirts and mothers with babies watched men cooking huge cuts of beef ribs on open pits on F Street.
I've lived in Washington 32 years and I can't believe it,? said a woman from Chevy Chase who wouldn't give her name. "This looks like a circus. F Street used to be our main street. They shouldn't happen downtown in the nation's capital."
The Streets, for People Celebration, which was sponsored by the District government and the Bicentennial Commission, was created for Washingtonians.
"This is a city event, not an event in the nation's capital for everyone in the country." said Peter Share, before he introduced the mayor. "This celebration is for Washingtonians, the people of this town joining together to have a good time."
The event also increased business for shops and stores downtown.
"I wish they'd have something like it every weekend," said the proprietor of the Donut Store on F Street.
The celebration will continue today and Monday.