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.
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
- I was decidedly not a wedding caterer (I’m a technical writer by trade in case you’re wondering).
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Head Cook, Procrastinator’s Ball
October 1, 2011