in catering mode
In 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.