Procrastinators 2011: Feast Obstacles and Profuse Thanks

October 4, 2011 § 21 Comments

As a group, we food researchers live and breathe the dishes we’re going to serve to the dinner guests attending. We pour our hearts and souls into making the dining experience memorable, enjoyable, and fun. Once everything is out the kitchen door, we follow the same path that authors do when publishing their novels: we thank anyone and everyone that may have had a hand in helping birth the virtual baby we’ve created. The feast I recently cooked on October 1st for the Procrastinators Brawl is no exception to this. But because of everything that happened, you deserve at least a portion of the story.

First Course

The first course of the Oct 1, 2011 Procrastinator's Feast, as it appeared on the table.

No shit there I was….As I arrived on site Saturday morning, my husband and I immediately got to work unloading food and supplies into the site’s kitchen. As counter space goes, it was plentiful. Beyond that, things got troublesome. There was an oven and a fridge but because of the questionable power throughout the building, they were unreliable at best. The kitchen existed on a single circuit (a fact that plagued us for the rest of the evening). The remainder of the building sketchily attached to others that blew fuses if you look at them cross-eyed. We were effectively left with a roof and walls as our assets. Oh, and running water. Let’s all just thank God for that one.

We began our organization and prep work as usual by grouping ingredients in one area, supplies in another, and reviewing the plan for the day. Once initial tasks were given to those people available, we set to work putting on a pot of boiling water, peeling cucumbers for the upcoming assembly of a lovely bread salad… you know, basic prep work. My first task was going to be figuring out the power situation to help us with the electric roasters in which we planned to reheat the spiced racks of ribs that I’d cooked the night before. Based on the warnings from the previous year’s staff and several others, I knew this could potentially break us and I wanted to be sure I addressed it head on. As I walked into the hall proper, I noticed a woman standing in the middle looking extremely puzzled, so I put on my brightest professional smile, stuck out my hand, and said “Hi, I’m Gaylin, the head cook. You can call me Iasmin. Can I help you find something?” Her response was the last thing I expected to hear:

“Are you the wedding caterer? I wasn’t expecting to see you.”

I suppose these words wouldn’t be surprising if you were actually the caterer for a wedding and could honestly answer yes, but

  1. I was decidedly not a wedding caterer (I’m a technical writer by trade in case you’re wondering).
  2. I was decidedly not *this* wedding’s caterer.

My first response was to take a huge breath and let it out. My second response was originally going to be assurances that we had the site under contract. I never uttered my second response. I couldn’t.

We immediately sent runners through the site to grab the staff but because we were in a 4-H campground of considerable size, this was not a fast process. After a bit of a go-round figuring out what happened (all before the site owners arrived on site to help sort out the mess), we finally figured out that the wedding party may have accidentally reserved the site for October 2nd, a Sunday, instead of October 1st, the Saturday of our event. By now the groom and members of the wedding families were beginning to arrive and I was told that the bride was on her way. You could see the defeat in their eyes and that they were all terrified of what was about to happen.

Most of them turned to me at about this point. I’m honestly not sure what my exact response was. My dear friend Rebekah was there and I know we looked at each other when we realized I ultimately had to make the call. She was ready to play bad cop for me if I spoke the words, but to be truthful, we both immeidately knew we couldn’t be the ones to ruin two families worth of memories. There was only one clear path:

We needed to give up the hall to the wedding reception.

outdoors

The Feast Hall in Progress Outside

outdoors

The First Course Being Staged for Serving Outside

The weather was not conducive to this. Not in the slightest. The temperature was cold. The sun was intermittent at best at that point. And the wind? Oi, the wind. But when it came right down to it, we at least were dressed in woolens, furs, cloaks, and official, albeit medieval, camping gear. The wedding party and attendees would be dressed in high heels. Suits and ties. Strapless cocktail and evening gowns. There’s no way they could have survived outside.

I’m not sure what people thought, but we didn’t have much time to think. I started issuing orders. My second in command answered his phone to hear me saying “Hey, funny story. The feast hall is double-booked…” We segwayed into plan B. Or maybe is was C or D at this point. The important point is that the show went on and aside from our feasters valiantly eating in the windy cold, we had so few visible problems to the outside world that most people probably didn’t even realize how horribly wrong things really could have gone. They didn’t see any of the power outages. They didn’t experience the oven failures. They didn’t see the roasters break down. They only saw the plastic wind blocks go up and a beehive of activity start up on the hill where the feast was held. Where the feast was held quite successfully, I might add. But it’s absolutely vital for everyone to know one simple thing:

All of this success, and I mean every single bit of it, could not have been accomplished without the coordinated efforts of every single person at that event, feasters and staff alike.

To Amy and Michael, bride and groom of the wedding reception: I hope someday you show your families the pictures of the event and remember fondly what happened instead of worrying about what might have been. It was meant to happen the way it happened. May you have so many more anniversaries that you can no longer count them.

bride and groom

The bride and groom, Amy and Michael, thanking the assembled feasters for giving up the feast hall for their wedding reception.

My dearest Majesties and Feast attendees: Thank you for sitting this feast without complaint and giving the bride and groom and their collective friends and family their day of joy while you ate a picnic in the cold wind. Your patience and acceptance of the changes and your agreement with my decision to move the feast out of doors eased my mind. Your willingness to help by volunteering information, ready hands, strong backs, and ideas were invaluable. To each one of you I offer my thanks for ensuring that this feast was not “that feast.” You know the one. The one where people talk about it behind your back and list it among the top worst meals you’ve ever had. Your compliments of the food and the servers were generous and genuine and I point them to my staff for they are the ones who truly deserve the praise.

To Duchess Rebekah MacTiernan: My friend, when we shared The Look and I knew you would step on the grenade for me, I couldn’t let it happen. Not to you and not to the bride and groom. We had to pull it off. Your presence kept me from swearing, kept me calm, and made me realize right away that I wasn’t alone and had more people than just those immediately present to make the crazy plan work. Thank you for being my silent voice of reason. I knew that you would help me make it happen if I couldn’t figure things out.

To Baron Odo and Sir Munenori, the first of my kitchen crew on site that day: Your immediate help with grunt work and prepwork ensured that we had constant motion in the kitchen. That you both willingly served as strong backs and staff once the feast was moved “onto the hill” meant much to me. The trips back and forth between the feast and the building couldn’t have been pleasant, especially give the rocky terrain. Your support of my second in command meant that I did not need to watch over everything. Thank you.

To Duches Arabella Silvermane: My friend, that you had the position of Server Whip thrust upon you unexpectedly shames me. I can only tell you that your ability to organize people into action continues to impress me every time I see it happen. You know instinctively what needs doing and you do it, without question, so that everyone can enjoy and be happy. Thank you.

prepwork

Busy plating and serving happening behind the scenes.

To Maddie McRaie, Duke Ragnvaldr, Serjant Ian, Anne Flamard, THL Anabelle, Dearest Boofy, Marva “Heather’s Mom” and doubtless several others whose names I dont’ know, thankyou thankyou thankyou for taking over the serving duties when chaos reigned and we had no idea how this crazy plan was all going to work outside in the cold. Everyone got food in a timely fashion. No one went hungry. You were all the epitome of calm and joy. You’d be stunned at how many times that part of a feast goes to hell in a handbasket when servers aren’t on the ball. You guys executed it flawlessly under the worst possible circumstances. I am in awe of each of you.

To the young Alexis Tilton, Heather Bower, and Caitlyn Hogan: You three amaze me. You asked to serve feast but when I told you what I desperately needed (responsible people to be my personal assistants) not one of you panicked and said no. You all ran errands for me. You trudged countless times up that hill with heavy items. You brought water to everyone. You offered smiles to everyone. Frankly you did it all with more energy than any adult could muster. And, most importantly, you waited patiently in between all those things when I was working my way back around to give you your next tasks. You conducted yourselves at levels far above your age would show and I couldn’t be prouder to know that you have this feast in your bag of experiences. Thank you.

assistants

Personal Assistants to the Head Cook

To whomever set up the feast pavilion and saw to it that the tables and cloths and placemats and everything in general ended up perfectly, thank you thank you thank you. I know I sent several people up to check on this or to manage it and someone in that chaotic jumble you all got it done and with minimal confusions, especially with court having to happen in the same space immediately before hand. And to the two young men who I saw each one carrying tables over your head all the way across the campground from the cabin on the far side of the horse field, I don’t know who you were, but damn, sons. Just damn. You keep eating your wheaties.

And finally, to Serjant Renaude de Lunay, my second in command, my “brain,” and my apprentice: I have always admitted that I have little talent for plating feast dishes and I have relied on you to guide me in this. It’s been a good exchange. My research, your artfulness, our sharing and bouncing of ideas off of each other. But this feast was so different I can’t begin to describe it to people. Had I not been able to continue and were I to simply have handed you my notes and the Istanbul manuscript, this feast would have succeeded simply because you were there in my stead. In truth, you WERE there in my stead. Having to split ourselves up with you in command on the hill and me continuing the last of the cooking in the kitchen made the difference between the success of the feast and the travesty it could have been. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Ever in service,

Iasmin
Head Cook, Procrastinator’s Ball
October 1, 2011

§ 21 Responses to Procrastinators 2011: Feast Obstacles and Profuse Thanks

  • Andra Jones says:

    Wow, Just Wow. I had heard that it was a good feast and that there were a lot of challenges. Amazing that you guys pulled it off. I really believe you must have a guardian angel or something. I envy your calm. You are an inspiration.

    • iasmindecordoba says:

      Honestly I was truly blessed with the staff that came together to help. If any one should serve as inspiration, it should be them with their “git ‘er done” attitude.

  • smuhlberger says:

    The generosity that makes the SCA worthwhile, on display once again.

  • bella says:

    After having sat “this feast” I cannot say enough, that it was seemingly flawless. Having a picnic feast in the pavillion was brilliant, albeit, not the ideal initial setting, but it has turned into without a doubt the most wonderful feast to remember. The food was incredible, the atmosphere light-hearted and very family oriented. Thank you, Iasmine, for making this feast one of the best, if not THE BEST, that I have ever sat.

    • iasmindecordoba says:

      You’re too kind, luv, but thankyou. I am so very happy you enjoyed it. Some day let’s try for a feast where there aren’t so many….festivities. :)

  • Aine says:

    Iasmin, your words are touching and inspiring. This is a perfect example of SCA folk at their finest. I have always been proud to be a part of this Society, but this story fill me with absolute joy.

    • iasmindecordoba says:

      One smile from the bride was enough. Joy from everyone else was a huge load of icing on the cake. These people make me proud too. SO very proud.

  • Judy Kirk says:

    Brava! I’m sure it was a real goat rodeo but you and your wonderful staff made it look like it was supposed to happen that way.

    Having been there a few times myself over the last three and a half decades, I can only imagine the energy level….congratulations!

    • iasmindecordoba says:

      Thanks, Siobhan! It was an adventure, but I think it’s really not until after it’s all over with that you really start to think “WTH just happened here? How did we pull that off?” Deep in the thick of things and you just “git ‘er done” ya know?

  • Liz Jarvis says:

    What an adventure! Oh, to have been there….

    With apologies to the immortal bard:

    We would not dine in that man’s company
    That fears his fellowship to dine with us.
    This day is call’d the Feast of Iasmin.
    He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
    And rouse him at the name of Iasmin.
    He that shall live this day, and see old age,
    Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
    And say ‘To-morrow is Procrastinators.’
    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
    And say ‘These wounds I had on Iasmin’s day.’
    Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
    But he’ll remember, with advantages,
    What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
    Familiar in his mouth as household words-
    Eikbrandr the King, Odo and Vlachus,
    Renaude and Munenori, Rebekah and Arabella-
    Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
    This story shall the good man teach his son….

    Perhaps our own bards will craft a tale, worthy of your efforts. Vivat!

    • iasmindecordoba says:

      Awh. *sniff* Thanks!

      “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
      For those that day that shed their blood with me
      Shall be my brothers; be they ne’er so vile,
      This day shall gentle their condition;
      And gentle folk in Midrealm now-a-bed
      Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not there.

  • Dahlia (Michelle Hogan) says:

    Having just found my way to your Blog. I must say you all did a wonderful job with not only the feast, but working with the circumstances.

    I have to thank you for the wonderful meal we had and also for the faith you put into our children in allowing them to help. I had several people mention there would be hesitation when it came to them helping, but I am so proud they did so well and were able to help make the evening go smoothly for you and everyone else.

    • iasmindecordoba says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the meal. I understand the hesitation that people have in allowing youths to serve at feast. I try to gauge it by maturity level rather than age, personally. The problem that I usually run into is that everyone wants to *serve* feast but few people are actually interested in helping prepare it. I always always always need help with preparation. When it came right down to what I really needed, those girls were the *perfect* choice for me to have as assistants who could immediately and responsibly act. They did so very well.

  • Gosfrei Kempe says:

    You showed the SCA chivalry at its very finest. I hope you were able to include the wedding party in your event somehow.

    Did you get any new members out of all this? :)

    I salute you and your group!

    With respect and awe,
    Gosfrei Kempe
    Avacal

    • iasmindecordoba says:

      You are too kind sir. Thankyou. The wedding party got to hear a great deal of everything going on at the event and I’m told that the events during the day had a few visitors from the wedding party as they were taking breaks from decorating and setting up for their event. The bride and groom were excited about our organization and said they would be looking us up in their home town somewhere on the west coast, as the reception was for family local to this area, not where the bride and groom lived. Perhaps a few of the guests might look us up. We could only be so lucky. They all seemed like great people.

  • freya46 says:

    Nicely handled..by one and all. This is one of those times I’m proud to be a Scadian. Kol HaKavod.

  • Lady you are amazing. I have cooked many a feast and never have been challenged in this manner. You deserve the highest accolades your Kingdom can give you for your graciousness under fire. To all of those people who pitched in and helped – bless you all. I am sure that the Bride and Groom will always remember those costumed medieval people when they think of their weddings. You all became part of beautiful memories. Vivat!

  • […] container of the last 1/4 cup of toasted walnuts from lunch earlier, a tub of spice mix from a medieval feast I’d cooked last year, and a stick of butter I was going to unwrap for the butter dish later. […]

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