ES Goes to the Circus

Instead of watching elephants balance on their hind legs and 90-pound women fly through the air, I ate lunch in the Pie Car, the dining area for the 300 or so members of the Ringling Bros circus. What does a circus performer eat? It’s certainly not the cotton candy found at concessions, but it’s not health food either. A few D.C. food writers were invited to eat in the dining car and try Chef Michael Vaughn’s food.

Think wedding food. Hotel meeting food. It’s not easy to cook well for hundreds of people, and in a tiny traveling circus train kitchen, it’s no different. The chef prepares breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks totaling 3,000 meals per week. Performers live 11 months out of the year on this train so everyone has some sort of cooking device in their “room,” from a microwave to a full-fledged range.

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Industrial Food Complex


Editor’s Note: As you may remember, ES contributor forkitude has given up the corporate life to take the plunge into culinary school.

Part of culinary education is learning how to purchase food. Therefore, I found myself in a food Home Depot during my walking tour of the 245,000-square-foot Sysco warehouse in Lincoln, NE.

When did food distribution become so mechanized and industrial?

Sysco was started in the 1970s by several producers in order to distribute different food stuffs to buyers on the same truck. This idea has evolved into a food machine. And it felt like a machine.

We walked past boxes labeled “fresh cut vegetables.” Maybe the English language needs a new definition for the word fresh. “Still consumable” perhaps?

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