By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
We catered a wedding last weekend at a private residence. The happy couple happens to be family friends, and they own my great-grandfather’s mansion in Cumberland.
George Truog, my great-grandfather, was an eccentric Italian-Swiss artist who owned one of the largest glass companies on the East Coast at the turn of the century. I still have a considerable collection of his work, and the only way I can describe his magnum opus is that he made stadium cups.
Yes, stadium cups, as in when you go to the dock bar and get your orange crush, and it comes in the custom, logoed plastic cup? Well, that is pretty much where he made his bread and butter, he made logoed glasses and was a master in acid-etching.
Of course, I am minimalizing his talents, as many of his glasses are ornate and highly detailed, not having anything to do with particular brands or marketing. But, as far as I have been able to tell, the logo work is how he was able to build his opulent 27-room house.
After he lost his house around 1908 (a long and sordid tale), the house became the Franklin Mental Hospital, and if you consider turn-of-the-century psychological care, you can only imagine the heebie jeebies one gets as one walks through the hallowed halls.
To further accentuate this spiritual maelstrom, it later became the Leisure-Stein funeral home, which operated until the ’90s. Indeed, it is creepy. it is an amazing monument nonetheless. When you look at the front of the house, there are two cherubs formed in concrete above the front porch. Those are likenesses of my grandmother as a baby.
Back to the wedding, during the announcements, Joni noted to her guests (most of whom are well aware of the Truog House) that dinner was being prepared by the great-grandson of Truog. I had never been introduced as such, and it was a wonderful feeling knowing that I had such a connection to the event. And my team, being in the flow, or the groove, made it the easiest wedding possible.
And then I was asked my favorite question by a guest in a rather assuming manner: “Chef, I’m gluten-free, so I am assuming that I won’t have much to eat today, right?”
Hold my wine.
Gluten-free is literally the easiest of all dietary limitations for which we can cook. As practitioners in this field, we should understand and sympathize with anyone and their restrictions. People do not choose allergies and sensitivities, and as such we need to ensure that we take care of our guests in every manner.
It was time for the passed hors d’oeuvres as it were, so I told him to give me five minutes. I returned with a plate of treats that would have sufficed as a meal in and of itself.
On the plate: House-smoked bluefish salad with pickled red onions and Alabama White BBQ sauce, assorted deviled eggs, a lovely goat cheese & heirloom grape tomato salad with basil puree and sweet vinegar glaze, and a tuna poke bowl. And then I told him that he could eat everything on the buffet except for two items. He shared that he is not a mac ‘n cheese, guy, so he wasn’t hurt in the least.
He ate. They all ate. And at the end of the day, I was proud to play a part in such a special day for our friends. I can only hope that I made my eccentric great-grandfather proud.
Tuna Poke Bowl
1# fresh ahi tuna
1/2 c. Hawaiian BBQ Sauce (Recipe follows)
4 c. Sushi rice (Recipe follows), cooked and cooled
1/2 c. Seaweed salad (purchased online)
¼ c. Pickled ginger
Sesame seeds and sushi seasoning, to taste
Hawaiian BBQ Sauce
makes about 1 quart
1 c. Soy sauce
1 c. Pineapple juice
2 Tbsp. Ketchup
1/2 c. Rice wine vinegar
1/2 c. Brown sugar, light
1/4 c. Roasted garlic
3-inch piece of peeled ginger, fresh
3 Tbsp. Black and white sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. Red pepper flakes
1. Combine everything in a saucepan except for the sesame seeds and pepper flakes.
1. Bring to a simmer and slowly reduce until it has slightly thickened. As it cools down, it will thicken more, so don’t go too far. Also, the more you reduce it, the saltier it will be, so be judicious in your simmering actions.
3. Strain to remove the ginger after you are happy with the consistency
4. Add the sesame seeds and red pepper flakes and refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes about 1 quart
2 c. Sushi rice
1/2 c. Rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. Sugar
1 piece of kombu or other sturdy seaweed
1. This isn’t as much a recipe as it is a guide, since every sushi rice manufacturer has slightly different procedures for making their rice.
2. Adjust the amount of water to add the vinegar. This is more of a Korean-style rice, but it works perfectly with the poke bowl.
—Paul Suplee is a Professor
of Culinary Arts at Wor-Wic
Community College and
owner of boxcar40.
Visit him at www.boxcar40.com.