I am now in recovery after a whirlwind of busy days. The orchestra performed one rip-roaring concert this past Saturday to a sell-out crowd. It was a fund-raiser concert in addition to our regular program, a country-meets-symphony event, and it was a hit.
I wish I could have just focused on that one event and given it all of my attention, but the following day was weighing on me and was a distraction. My friend, Jane, and I catered a dinner party for eight Sunday evening, also a fund-raiser event for the orchestra. We had entered this dinner as an item in a silent auction, and the winners chose Sunday for their party. They used it as a thank-you gift for two men who founded and help operate our homeless shelter and foodbank. Their wives were there as well, along with Conductor Eric and the pastor of the hosts' church.
Jane and I had planned and planned and planned, tested recipes and tested recipes and tested recipes, and organized like pros even though this was our first time catering a meal. We made what we could ahead of time, and timed out the rest to the minute. One of the guests arrived about 30 minutes late, so that bumped back our schedule, but it all worked out well.
The guest list included an interesting mix of people, so there was plenty of conversation change-up—everything from the science of the oil spill in the Gulf to the science of introducing non-indigenous plants to a field (there was a scientist in the room) to the nature of orchestra conducting to theology to wine making. The retired church organist (the hostess) performed a delightful organ solo, and she showed off the watercolors she had created in a painting class.
The meat was served with a red-wine reduction that required only one cup of wine, so Jane and I sipped at the rest of the bottle and giggled and snickered in the kitchen as we eavesdropped on the dining room conversation. We generally had a great time even though it was a lot of hard work with the prepping and the cooking and the cleaning. Phew.
When I host a dinner party at my house, I sit at the table with my guests, and my husband helps clear the table after each course. I share the experience of the meal with everyone else, so I know exactly how each dish tastes, and I can see if anyone needs anything. But with this catering business, I didn't share the experience. I didn't make my own plate of food, so even though I tasted the individual elements before serving them, I'm not sure of how it all worked together. And we didn't want to hover in the dining room, so I was never aware if someone needed something except when one of us popped in to check now and then.
The fact that everyone was very complimentary, and there were hardly any leftovers, tells us the meal was a success. It was just a little unsettling to have to observe from a distance. We worked for about five hours straight that evening, and I wondered if I could do that for a living. Could I be a caterer for private parties? Well, we didn't sit down for even one moment, and I decided that if I were to do this sort of thing more often, I would demand a kitchen chair, or at least a stool in the corner. I'm too old, and my circulation is too poor, for being kitchen help without a little rest.
All in all, though, we put on one heck of a meal. And we decided with the host to try to do it again next year. Now, I'll have to start obsessing about another knock-out menu.