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Inside Redskins Park: The Lunchroom Suggestion Board

Posted by Matt Terl on August 31, 2009 – 12:31 pm

The crowdsourcing trend has finally hit Redskins Park, in a somewhat unexpected spot: the dining room. Before last week, there was a line of chafing dishes containing an assortment of different main dishes, sides, starches, followed by a sandwich platter and usually a wrap or two, and a salad bar.

At some point this preseason, though, the catering company decided that it was time to solicit some opinions from their customers and a dry-erase board went up with the title “Requests From The Chef”. The suggestions have ranged from the quotidian (“chicken parmesan”; “flounder”) to the more exotic (“oxtail stew”) to the non-food-related (“rest”). I was curious about the oxtail stew, but had no way of narrowing down who would be interested in something like that.

But when “poutine” was written on the board one day, I could immediately narrow it down. Poutine — french fries covered with beef gravy and cheese curds — is a distinctly Canadian dish, so I knew we were looking at the Canadian Contingent: actual Canadian Shaun Suisham, and former CFL players Dominique Dorsey and Chris Wilson.

Dorsey had never even tried poutine. “I looked at it, and I was like, ‘What is that?’ People keep telling me to try it, but….” He trailed off. During his time in Canada, he stuck to tastes of home. “I just ate the regular stuff they had up there: KFC, Popeyes, and all that good stuff. I never branched off too much,” he said. “I know my limits.”

Wilson had also never gotten onboard with the poutine thing. “Nope. Never,” he said. “The food in Vancouver was great, though. I liked the Thai food — pad thai noodles, you know?”

Which left Suisham, always the most likely suspect anyhow. “I’m not saying that it would be good for the team to eat,” Suisham was quick to clarify, “but I think they’d enjoy it. I think a guy like Fred Smoot would fall in love with poutine. A lot of the guys from down south — probably most of the guys besides the Michigan/Wisconsin type people — have no idea what it is.”

I wasn’t even sure that the catering staff here could acquire cheese curds, but Suisham brushed my concerns aside. “I don’t think cheese curds are that hard to come by,” he said. “Wegman’s has everything.”

Working that Wisconsin axis, I talked to Casey Rabach, who called cheese curds “God’s gift to humans” and poutine “a heart attack in a bowl,” but was somewhat skeptical of cheese curds from Wegman’s. “You have to get ’em fresh,” he assured me, “so that they’re squeaky when you chew on ’em.”

Chris Horton, a Louisiana kid who went to school on the west coast, knew an awful lot about poutine despite never having tried it. “I know it’s French. Maybe it originated in Quebec?” (This was correct, incidentally.) “I’m a French guy,” Horton said, by way of explanation. “I studied a little French in college.”

“Christofé is his real name,” Kareem Moore added.

“With an e and an accent mark at the end,” Horton clarified.

But don’t expect Horton to be asking for any Cajun food via suggestion board. “That’s kinda too bad for the insides,” he said, grimacing.

“You can’t eat that food before you go to practice, man,” Moore added, “or you gonna be down with the hurt.”

Since Suisham had singled out Smoot as the kind of guy who might like the dish, I asked him about it as well. The first thing this necessitated was an explanation of what the dish was; then Smoot asked me who makes that.

Canadian people, I said, and added that Suisham thought Smoot might like it. He nodded approvingly. “Well, you know, I like Canadian people, so I’m willing to give it a try. Suisham wants me to try it, I will try it. I’m not usually the kind of guy who tries anything — and Suisham knows that — but in my Canadian circle over there, we keep it one-hundy.”

So all that remains now is actually getting the caterers to serve up a chafing dish of hot poutine, something that I still don’t think is all that likely. Even Shaun Suisham isn’t overly optimistic. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s a dry-erase board, they were looking for suggestions, I thought I’d put it up there.”

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