Friday, March 5, 2010

Learning How to Out-Drink the Guys

I'd spent the last four Thursdays at my Modern Romance class at the Virginia Center for Architecture. So tonight, for the first time in a month, I was free to start my Thursday evening anywhere I chose. So where did I end up but at the opening off the new exhibit Glass Ceilings: Women in Architecture at, no surprise, the VCA, but it was completely worth the return visit.

Given the male domination of the architecture field, the women who have made names for themselves were not run-of-the-mill types. Nobiko Nakahara visited a firm back in the 50s, asking for a job. She was told that it was a ten-person office but if she could redesign the space to accommodate eleven desks, she'd be hired. Of course she succeeded, but why do I doubt that a man would have been challenged in the same way?

Another female architect told the story of the ongoing issue of not getting any respect on construction sites, despite being the architect of the project. She finally asked the foreman how she could win them over. "Out-drink them," she was told. She went home and asked her mother and a nurse how best to accomplish this. Her mother advised her to eat a big fatty meal to line her stomach first. The nurse gave her a bottle of cod liver oil to take hourly in the bathroom, thus allowing her to throw up what she'd just drank. Between the two, she held her own and gained their respect.

Besides being a learning experience, the opening was a good night to be a wine drinker. Barboursville was pouring tonight and I made sure to try the rose, the perfect pink wine to accompany an exhibit about females. At least, that's how I justified it. It was a blend of one of Virginia's best-growing grapes, Cabernet Franc, with Merlot and Barbera and as good a reason as any to drink pink.

I followed all that girl talk with dinner at a friend's and while she's female, the other three guests were not. It was a casual meal of chili and cornbread, but the chili was a standout. Made with spicy venison sausage, it had all kinds of veggies and even garbanzo beans in it, enough variety anyway to appall a chili purist. But with big hunks of steaming cornbread, it was as deliciously satisfying a meal as I could have hoped for, especially after my pink cocktail hour.

One of the guests was from NYC and spending a week in RVA, so I was curious about his take on us. He remarked on the friendliness of the people and I naturally asked him about which restaurants he'd eaten at (come on, I had to know). Sadly, a mutual friend had taken him to Chili's at VCU, undoubtedly the worst possible representation of a Richmond bar; he was underwhelmed, as well he should be. He'd loved 821 Cafe and Black Sheep though.

I had brought the dessert, a chocolate torte, which is insanely rich and meant to be served in 1/4" slices. Not with these guys; they each had an inch and a half piece and finished it off in about four bites. My dessert for twelve was decimated in moments, but they all raved about it and how well it went with the beer.

And since I wasn't about to try to out-drink them, that was enough respect for me. But then, I'm not a female architect.

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