Cookin' with Papa Tuck
For Peter Tucker, a.k.a. Papa Tuck, cooking is in his blood. His passion for food began when he learned to cook from his mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. The family cooking he grew up with is the foundation of his style. This Friday night, he will host a cooking show at the Portuguese-American Club, which will be followed by a performance by Tripping Lily, an acoustic quartet from West Yarmouth. The show benefits the Island Food Pantry.
"I've been cooking all my life for my family," says Papa Tuck. "I cook all kinds of different foods. My cookbooks are all my own stuff, six generations of food in my family alone. It all comes out of my head.
"My first cookbook is about family cooking. It's about bringing the family back to the table, instead of going to the McDonald's drive-through window."
Papa Tuck has lived on the Vineyard for the last four years, and was also here for five years about a decade ago. The fact that there's no McDonalds on the Island, he says, is: "Awesome, that's a good thing."
For years Papa Tuck had considered writing a book for young readers. "When I turned 50 my wife said, 'Are you ever going to write your children's book?' I'd been talking about it for years. So I did that. It's called 'Pumpkin Bunch.' That was two years ago."
Soon afterwards, he wrote "Cookin' with Papa Tuck," his first cookbook. "Every year for 20 years, my brother asked me for my lasagna recipe for Christmas," he says. "He loses it every year. So I thought, I'll write a cookbook and dedicate it to my brother."
Papa Tuck sometimes turns to an old cookbook, which has been handed down through his family for generations, written in both Italian and English. "There are lots of notes in it," he says, "family hand-writing. I was thinking of putting some of the stuff my family members did in the next book."
While writing his books, Papa Tuck has continued to work for Alexander and Dyke, an air conditioning and refrigeration company on the Island. "I was on a job installing a furnace last winter," he says, "and the woman there said, 'Do you want to do a cooking show?'" That's how Papa Tuck became a television producer and personality. His family helps to film and produce the show, which has new episodes on MVTV at 7 pm every Thursday. Re-runs of the show can be seen regularly on MVTV and on public access TV stations in 47 states across the U.S., as well as in Germany and on youtube.com.
"I talk about helping food pantries on the show," Papa Tuck says. "I'm trying to bring the authors of new books together to help food pantries with portions of their royalties." The benefit show at the P.A. Club this Friday ties in that mission to promote and support food pantries.
"I cook at the P.A. Club once a month," says Papa Tuck. "I've been inviting different chefs in to cook with me. For this show, I've invited the band Tripping Lily to come over from the Cape. I'm going to interview them on TV, and then we're going to cook together. I'm going to do Papa Tuck Steak Sandwiches."
Tripping Lily came to Papa Tuck's attention when he heard them on NPR recently. The band is based in West Yarmouth, and recently played at the Folk Alliance International Conference in Memphis, Tennessee. They came together five years ago, and for the past two years have begun touring more widely around the U.S.
They describe themselves as an acoustic folk-pop quartet. Their sounds come from vocals, ukelele, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, and upright bass. "It really is our own sound," says band member Monica Rizzio. "Our influences range from James Taylor to Jack Johnson to Michael Jackson - all over the place." This will be Tripping Lily's first show on Martha's Vineyard.
Papa Tuck's cooking demonstration, 6 pm, Friday, March 5, P.A. Club, Oak Bluffs. Followed by a performance by Tripping Lily. $20, available at Dock Street Diner and Al's Package Store in Edgartown, the P.A. Club and Jim's Package Store in Oak Bluffs. All proceeds benefit Island Food Pantry.