Tales of Catering: Practicing Equanimity

S**t happens. I’ve learned to wing it, especially when catering on-site. Equipment breaks down, ingredients aren’t available, or the client’s facility is compromised. Last MayDay (2011), HOBT theater lobby’s fuse kept tripping, so the stews in the electric roasters weren’t heating up, and my brilliant idea of baking tater tots in a portable convection oven was turning into an epic fail. And, the lobby sink’s faucet was kaput.

Fortunately, 2 able volunteers and a couple industrial-sized extension cords later, hot tater tots and stews were served and it all worked out. We washed the pots in the upstairs small sink and a utility sink (and then I re-washed and sanitized later).

I learned my lesson. This year, for HOBT’s Post- MayDay Feast, I simplified the equipment and the process. No baking. No deep-frying over the propane burner. No electric percolators for tea (besides, it wasn’t cold & rainy). Belatedly, as in two days before, I  remembered the fuse problem, so I switched a hot African Mafe stew for a room-temp Garbanzo Bean & Cuke salad.

And s**t still happened. For instance, I was all excited about serving Apple & Spinach Detox Juice w/ appetizers, but on Saturday my blender broke. Of course. OK, so plain apple juice then.

[Warning, Whine Alert:  while cleaning my fairly new blender, I over-twisted the plastic part that connects the glass pitcher to the blade mechanism in the stand and it cracked. Contents of blender leaks out in a flood. For this I have to order a new expensive pitcher?!]

I had brought my food processor to the theatre to shred the beets & carrots for the slaw, as well as make the balsamic vinaigrette and whip up the vegan pudding. However, of the hundred items I did bring, I forgot to pack the little tube that attaches the shred blade to the processor. OK, so my volunteer sous chefs hand-chopped the veggies instead. Fine.

Fortunately, these were very minor setbacks. But, they still serve as good opportunities to practice resourcefulness, flexibility and equanimity. Really, you have no choice. Here’s a better story of disaster narrowly averted:

A dear friend/fellow caterer and I help each other with gigs that require teams. Last summer he masterminded a lovely dinner for 30 in a beautiful modern Mtka home. He had prepped a few things and we were to cook most of the meal in their kitchen. We were all set to bake the entree of marinated chicken breast stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes & goat cheese, when we discovered that their oven was too narrow for the large aluminum foil pans. The home had been completely re-done but, the old wall oven had not been replaced. The clients had only one small lasagna pan, and we had 40 chicken breasts!

Attacking the problem on two fronts, one host went out to buy foil pans, while the other ran to the next-door neighbor, whom she knew had a huge restaurant-style gas oven. Her neighbor came to our rescue and not only allowed us to bake 4 pans of chicken in her oven, but also watched them for us. Meanwhile, using the smaller foil pans just purchased, we carried on roasting brussel sprouts and stuffed mushrooms and making sauces, etc.

Dinner was a smashing success. Giving thanks to the neighbor and the Fates, we treated ourselves to a glass of wine and started washing up. And then I inadvertently broke the sink’s faucet!  Pull, push, swivel, it’s confusing. (Moen! I KNOW!! They don’t make ’em like they used to.)  So, I used the little sprayer, a big tub, and we also used the downstairs bar sink.

Deep Breaths. Humor. Resourcefulness. Equanimity. More Humor. A little wine and chocolate helped too.

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