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Monday, March 22, 2010

RINGLING PIE CAR PART 2

The Pie Car provides train-dwellers with three meals a day “plus a lot of snacks in between,” Mr. Vaughn said.
Many crew members finish their work shifts after midnight. “They’ve been doing hard physical work and they want meat and potatoes — they don’t want what they call rabbit food. But a lot of the performers prefer salads, want to eat on the lighter side.”
The kitchen also takes short-order directions from its customers.
“Whatever they want, we make it,” Mr. Vaughn said. “Cheeseburgers to filet. A PBJ at 3 a.m.? We can do that. You name it? We do it.”
The classic circus pie car “was always the social hub of the show,” said Nicole Feld who, with her sister Alana, produced the new show. “It still is — the common area for everyone.” In the days of the tented big top, pie cars served up not only hearty fare but also alcohol as well as a permanent card game and a dice game or three.
The dice have faded, but “there’s still a card game,” Nicole Feld said, although the alcohol has been 86’d. “And people are always cutting jackpots,” she said, using circus patois to describe the weaving of good old fashioned circus yarns.
Mr. Vaughn’s crew of six supplies food for all age groups, from toddlers in the circus nursery to the 60-year-old family members of the performers. The menu must be eclectic, considering the 19 nationalities on the train. Many circus folk have special dietary preferences. The Moroccan performers don’t eat pork. Some Asians are vegetarians.
“Russian performers will put mayonnaise into everything, including chili,” Mr. Vaughn said with a sigh. “And the Trinidadian stilt-walkers eat everything with ketchup. They even put it on my steaks!” He smiled. “I have huge issues with people who put ketchup on steak.”
Mr. Vaughn prefers to shop for himself. “If we’re in a city for a week, I’ll get a chance to go out and locate local markets, because we prefer to live off the land,” said Mr. Vaughn, who was raised in Baton Rouge, La., and has been the food director for 15 years.
Food is sold to the performers “at cost,” Ms. Feld said.
So, a cheeseburger costs $2.85, a hot roast beef or chicken dinner with vegetables costs $5.50, and coffee is 85 cents, “not what you’d pay at Starbucks,” Mr. Vaughn said.
But he prides himself on the ability to hit a higher mark. On the menu for 15 visiting journalists was a trio of appetizers (mixed baby greens, honey-brushed scallops and Hudson Valley foie gras) and entrees that included a cilantro-lime salmon with pineapple couscous and grilled tomato, and a frenched veal chop with Lyonnaise potatoes, broccoli florets and truffled hollandaise sauce.

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