Monday, February 20, 2012

A Cautionery Tale

The subtitle could be "Be careful about what you wish for - it can come back on you." This is how my own hubris attacked me. And I have no one to blame but myself.

The Thurs. Writers had two important events on the horizon - a major birthday (94) and a beloved fellow writer moving to another city. While we have only two official parties a year -- the Christmas holiday and summer solstice potluck luncheons - it was felt that we should honor these two events.

Much in the spirit of: "My Dad's got a barn! We can put on the play there!" we set out. Dale said, "We can have it at my house - 4 p.m., Sunday, February 19th. I said, "I'll cater it!" and Rudy volunteered to bring food, too.

Because I really appreciated the offer of the house, I decided to bring everything I needed, clean up afterward and not use a single knife, sppon, fork or glass of our hosts. I wanted the kitchen to look exactly as it did when I walked into it - pristine.

But first, what to bring that would please everyone? Most of the guests were the generation before me that loved wine and cheese tastings. And I knew that the older you get, the earlier the dinnertime. So I needed some hot hors d'oeuvres, too.

Thus I decided on: a Brie, a Carombola, slices of peppered salami plus cheese twists and two types of crackers and mixed olives. I love a block of cream cheese with hot pepper jelly on a cracker, so, what the hell, I added that, too. My hots would be ham and cheese puffs, a crab langostine rangoon (wontons with cream cheese and the seafood) and for the vegetarian or health-minded, tofu edamame nuggets. And a pair of cakes for the celebrants.

I carefully listed each item by store (Ralph's, Trader Joe) to get it in, including what I already had on hand -- fig jam for the Brie, chili pepper jelly and so forth.

Then I made a list of cooking tools to bring - the cakes required a knife and a server; bring a pair of scissors for the wrapped items - and don't forget the wine glasses! Several years ago I bought 18 utility wine glasses (red or white) from BevMo - $20, one of the smartest things I've done. They normally live in their special box under the daybed in the office. Spreaders for the cheeses, appropriate dishes for the cheeses and crackers.

For the hot apps, I cooked each in my oven and when they were done, I slipped them into a warm crockpot for transport.

For transport - slipped the oval crock pot into a pair of paper bags - carrying by a handle is a lot easier than not. A refrigerated bag for the cold stuff (cheeses, fig jam); the wine glasses had their own specialized carrier, a big plastic bag for the two cakes and a final bag for the plates, plastic forks, scissors, boxes of crackers and tongs for the hot apps.

We loaded it up, at the destination we unloaded it and I went to work in the kitchen. Swiftly I opened things, plated others, checked the heat in the crock pot...

Rudy came in with his offerings -- beef and chicken empanadas? enchiladas? salsa and warm chips and set them out on a table in their aluminum containers, ripped open the paper bag of warmed chips and uncapped the cup of salsa. The guests reacted like wolves to explain why I didn't know if they were empanadas or enchiladas. Whatever they had been, they were now dismal scrapes in the containers.

The guests were pretty well filled by the time I got my stuff out there.

"Rudy was a helluva lot smarter than I was," I thought as I packed up nibbled-on foods. "Never again - restaurants do catering! I don't!"

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