in catering mode



SpcIn a previous life, I worked as a cook. We had a cafe. Me, my mum and my sister.  I had planned on becoming a writer, but one day I found myself in front of a big stove with four burners and a side grill and there I was managing a kitchen, dealing with suppliers, hiring (and firing) staff. With no commercial training or experience. Just blind faith and some very firm ideas about food. To say that the next year was a learning curve is a massive understatement, but learn I did. We all did.

And one of the things I learnt was how to cater an occasion. You start with a reason, a time and a place. Numbers, how many vegetarians, vegans, rabid meat eaters. And a budget. Then you talk with the client. Work out a menu, maybe an alternative menu. A shopping list. Refer back to the the budget. Make a plan of when you will do various bits and pieces. Who will help and when. Back and forth, time permitting, until everyone more or less agrees. Because on the day, there's no time for democracy. If I've planned well, it will go smoothly. And I do plan well, even now, because otherwise it all ends in tears and chaos.

In this photo, I'm icing some yo-yos I made the night before. G is out dropping Grace at Nana's. I'm working methodically, listening to Endorphin and thinking about the afternoons event. Thinking about our friend Steve who won't be there. Steve, Gerard and I organised this event months ago. Steve insisted on giving us cash to buy the food. I remember I tried to convince him that a simple funeral followed by the wake would be a good idea, but he wouldn't have it. He was adamant that he just wanted a party with all his friends and family there. He requested a cake and I wish I'd had time to make it myself, because the bakery really didn't get the colour right. I knew they wouldn't. Still, even organising a cake was touch and go at such short notice. We couldn't find a set of miniature drums to put on top. So G went out in the shed and made some. Steve would have liked that, I think.

Of course, when we rocked up with the big esky of sandwiches, the other esky of antipasto type things, the fruit platter, the bags and boxes, I thought I had massively overcatered. Eventhough I knew I hadn't. There just seemed so much food and there was a peculiar intensity in the atmosphere. All the emotion that people express together at a funeral just seemed to be leaking out at the sides. More than one person had a cry in the laundry. An hour or so in, I put the sausage rolls out and bang, people started eating. After the speeches, we served the cake and then as we were re-organising the food table and cleaning up, we sent out the rest of the sandwiches. By the time we were ready to leave, there were just a few people left. Someone started a fire and it looked like the night was just beginning again.

Such a sad time, but it was good to feel like we could do something useful. I'd also like to thank everyone who's commented or emailed. It's very much appreciated.

More food here.

15 comments:

  1. Wonderful image, so evocative and fascinating to look at.

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  2. yes, having something useful to do at these times helps a little. the drum kit on the cake is precious and perfect. and the yo-yos look delish.
    Vx

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  3. These things are always easier to get through when you're doing something. I gave the eulogy at my grandfather's funeral last year. I didn't have time to get swamped with emotion because I had a job to do... the last thing I could do for him, so I had to do it well.
    It sounds as if you did the same thing for your friend. Condolences.

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  4. More than 'useful', Janet. Way more.

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  5. Oh Janet, I've tears in my eyes reading this, and I don't even know you or Gerard or Steve. But I'm sorry for you all, that such a friendship was cut short.

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  6. love that light pouring in...makes me want to bake up a storm!!

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  7. I'm so sorry you lost your friend. I love his idea of having a party for his memorial. That's the way to honor someone's life!

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  8. That's a lovely photo of you. You look sad, dignified and calm, all rolled into one.
    xx

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  9. yummers ~ i think its good to have something to do, something beautiful to contribute. last week, we put together a slideshow with 22 songs and over 200 photos, it was beautiful and i'm so glad that i had the technical expertise to contribute in that way ... you are beautiful.

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  10. I had to come back to tell you: I made these yo-yos today!! And mmmm they've been a great success. I thought of you while I made them and told my kids these are Janet's Australian Yoyos. They were extremely impressed ;) We'll be bringing them to Liam's bake sale tomorrow (along with the tons of other stuff we baked).... if they last that long, that is ;)
    Love,
    Vx

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  11. I'm glad you all had a special gathering, although so sad.

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  12. Sounds good, though. Wakes can be very cathartic and bonding. I've been to a few beauties.
    None of which had melting moments.
    Brilliant.

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