All You Can Eat


In all likelihood, over thirty years working in hospitality deems me incapable of objectively pondering “all you can eat” phenomena with anything less than contempt and bias. “All you can eat” is a mindset triggered by the suggestion of unrestricted consumption. From humble beginnings along the Las Vegas strip in the 40’s and 50’s, all you can eat became an integral facet of North American culture. All you can eat condoned gluttony, encouraged excess and banked on popularity. Quality mattered less than quantity, all you can eat fooled patrons by suggesting they controlled the dining out experience.

Fine and dandy, but here’s the problem – all you can eat culture has come to consider every edible display as all you can eat. Regardless of setting or demographic, despite common sense, decency or good manners – the moment an unrestricted table of food is displayed, is the moment “all you can eat” seizes the day.

A few days ago a client booked coffee, desserts and non alcoholic beverages to be served following a public lecture at Science World. No problem, 150 guests, service split between two stations, and if I do say so myself, stunning visual presentation. Who am I kidding? Within moments post lecture, long lines formed at each table. I watched the first thirty or so load plates with perilously high stacks of dessert bars.WTF! Do they think it’s a bottomless pit? Are they aware of how many people are lined up behind them? Did they consider a garbage bin full of “one bite taken” throw aways, while dozens go hungry?

One of my first ponders is titled “Is That A Hot Dog In Your Gucci?” Linked below for consideration –

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/is-that-a-hot-dog-in-your-gucci/

 

Cake


Last night I reminded my husband not to come home with birthday cake. Waking a year beyond mid point between fifty and sixty had nothing to do with it. – I don’t like cake. In fairness to cake, one peculiar exception prompted a “note to self” – next year he can stick candles in a fruit cake.

Fruit cake, the misunderstood butt of seasonal offering endures needless suffering at the hands of Christmas bullies. Skeptics and naysayers just haven’t had the right cake. Proper fruit cakes are pickled in spirits, wrapped for weeks in rum soaked cheesecloth until every morsel of candied fruit packs a rum bomb. Yum.

When my children were young birthday cakes were a big deal. Not for candles or a birthday song – anticipation hinged on the unveiling. Sheets of  “stay out of the kitchen til I’m done” cake, yielded to coaxed pleas of “look like a rabbit” , train or mermaid. Cakes baked for the gift of my children’s delight – for myself as much as them – those cakes I loved.

A good cake demands steadfast attention to detail. Baking, the science of precise measures to incorporate air, control temperature and stoke chemical reactions while resisting fickle inclinations. Few people care about fundamentals of cake, razzmatazz resides in layers and frosting. Cake cred is style over substance – if it looks good, slice it.

What if it looked mediocre but held pie? Where does all substance, no style cake fall – squarely on the plate of Cherpumple. Bake a cherry pie in white cake, apple pie in yellow cake, pumpkin pie in spice cake – now frost them together without a twinge of remorse.

I can’t speak for pie, but sympathize with pies’ outrage over cakes’ brazen attempt at validation. Nice try cake – I still won’t eat you.

cherpumple

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/12/cherpumple-cake-pie-recipe_n_5485021.html

I Hate Turkey


Home late, another Christmas party put to bed, too tired to ponder more than the turkey dinner at tomorrow night’s party – a reblog of my thoughts on turkey.

notestoponder

Hate is a big word, I”ll temper that to a strong dislike. Turkey has a unique distinction – it’s strictly a holiday meal. No one in their right mind plans a dinner party in May and says “hey, a Turkey would be great”. If people actually liked Turkey, it wouldn’t be disguised as “healthy alternative” sausage or processed into blocks of seasoned sandwich meat – only trotting out the big birds when Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter demand preparation of something nobody wants the rest of the year.

The idea of Turkey eclipses reality. There’s a reason we say “I hope it’s not dry” – everyone knows it will be. Turkey requires gravy, cranberry sauce, or mayonnaise once it lands in a sandwich. We make it into soup or casseroles to disguise a loathsome reputation. Turkey is not great protein, it’s an obligation.

Today was Thanksgiving in Canada. Over time I’ve…

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Enough With The Kale


Not so very long ago Kale was an inedible frilly border at salad bars, indestructible platforms for plastic bowls of bean salad or canned baby corn. A mainstay of supermarket deli platters, predictably hiding aluminum trays while cleverly taking up space. Not for human consumption, questionably decorative but for a stoic refusal to wilt.

Enter “eating healthier”, the dawn of all natural, organic, antibiotic and pesticide free,  Earnest organic farmers sustained farmers markets and upscale restaurants, social media took care of the rest. Forget spinach, new age consumers demanded kale, the tough, slightly bitter, hard to digest acquired taste became an overnight sensation.

Kale chips, caesar salads, smoothies. We couldn’t just eat healthier, we had to eat kale. Whole Foods sells more kale than all other leafy greens combined, who cares that it doesn’t have more nutrition than spinach. According to Whole Foods that equals 22,000 fresh bunches a day, and they stock 250 items containing kale.

I don’t mind a little kale here and there, but stop short of paying ridiculous prices for meager bunches, half of which are fibrous throw-aways. Today we went to Whole Foods for sausages to BBQ, they have a great selection of unique flavor combinations. Normally I’d settle on the lamb or andouille. Overtaken by a fit of madness, I took home the lemon kale pork. I can’t describe that first bite, it was like eating the bottom of a peat bog. Dry, spongy, expanding before my eyes the moment its’ casing was breached. Enough with the kale, time for a new vegetable.

Foodie


Wikipedia defines “foodie”  –

A foodie is a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger.

Urban Dictionary gets right to the point –

“A douchebag who likes food”.

Apparently anyone can be a foodie. Membership requires nothing more than inflated ego, unflappable willingness to declare yourself “expert” because you can spell umami but not pretentious, determination to forsake anything that actually matters, and the belief someone cares what you had for lunch.

Foodies are everywhere, relentless Instagrams witness every morsel to cross their lips. Snippets of foodie jibber-jabber permeate the land.  Self absorbed social media nincompoops behaving like king of the douchbags with nary a blink.

We all enjoy a good meal. Write a review once in a while, share recipes, watch the Food Network, throw dinner parties, eat at a new restaurant every night. But please, I’m begging you – refrain from being the arrogant know it all.

 

 

I Hate Turkey


Hate is a big word, temper that to strong dislike. Strictly a holiday meal, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter demand roast Turkey and all the fixings. Nobody plans a dinner party in May with “hey, a Turkey would be great”.

The idea of Turkey eclipses reality. There’s a reason we say “I hope it’s not dry” – everyone knows it will be. Turkey requires gravy, cranberry sauce, or mayonnaise once it lands in a sandwich. Families believe size matters, holiday Turkeys linger for days. Soup is Turkey’s greatest gift, immersing that carcass in water means the end of Turkey for another year.

Restricting Turkey to once a year wasn’t easy. I blame myself, stuffing is practically a food group in my home. Nothing fancy, half bread, half sausage meat, onion, celery, and sage. Preparing copious amounts, even though the “cavity” only holds a few cups is lost on my family. I’ve tried to explain stuffing can be served anytime, pointing out almost all the stuffing is baked far from the demon Turkey. No good.

All day “don’t overcook it”, “I hope it’s not dry”, “are you watching the bird”. It’s a damn Turkey! Have you ever had one that melts in your mouth? Turkey is an obligation, if it rocked our world we’d be roasting them all year long.

Ponder a Day In My Life


For over 30 years the food and beverage industry has paid my bills. Years spent operating my own catering company, running back stage and suites at the stadium/arena, F&B management at a major hotel. The last 5 years, making parties fabulous for a major catering company. No two days alike, no two parties the same – I thrive on little more than “thank you” for a job well done.

Top dollar for exemplary service, attention to detail, problem solving and my undivided attention. So much more than food – we take success seriously. Bat shit expectations, unrealistic timelines, “little Miss know it all” executive assistants , hysterical brides, in your face hot heads – all walk away with smiles on their faces, skillfully dealt the appropriate measure of expertise and common sense.  Hospitality has taught me to more about Psychology than years of schooling ever could.

Much as I enjoy what I do, at times I shake my head in astonishment. Next time you’re at a party, think about a day in my life.

Take a look around – every table, chair, tablecloth, fork, candle, bar, morsel of food – came from someplace else. We began hours ago, loading trucks with heavy equipment. unloading and hauling it into place. We didn’t have time to whine over the blocked loading bay nobody bothered to tell us about – we had a party to pull off. Never letting on how monumentally behind schedule we were, finding a painfully arduous and slow load in – all with a smile on our face. Why should it be any of your concern the rented china, glassware and cutlery languished on the wrong floor of this one elevator building because the event rental people messed up. We’ll deal with them later, we have a party in an hour – get to work.

Tables set for 250 people, bar open, buffet ready to go, a free drink ticket each plus a bottle of red and white wine on every table – enjoy yourselves, the food is lovely – what a great way to end your conference. For the 40 Vegetarian and Vegan guests – don’t worry, we’ve prepared lovely meal options for your dining pleasure – please identify yourselves at the buffet and one of my staff will plate your dinner. Hold on a moment, I’m confused. You stipulated your lifestyle choice, we went out of our way to make sure you had a spectacular dining experience, but you were hedging your bet? The chicken and salmon look pretty good so you switch teams and load your plates with proteins meant for your associates? Didn’t cross your mind this might create a problem? Quick calculation as I eyeball the buffet line – only 10 “special meals” taken, 30 inconsiderate guests now scarfing down dinner meant for someone else – we made plenty of food but 30 lifestyle imposters has taken a toll. I wonder if you even noticed the tables still at the buffet line – did it cross your mind they might not be thrilled to eat your Vegan meal?

No I can’t “slip” you another bottle of wine – your host paid for 2 bottles per table and your free meal. This is the third time you’ve asked me, please stop embarrassing yourself. Time to go home now – the bar is closed, no I won’t make an exception. 25 tables to roll out, 250 chairs to stack, a one ton truck to fill, drive back to our headquarters, unload a one ton truck, write a report, and finally limp home.

I need my head examined – like childbirth, if able to remember the pain I’d never do it again. Miraculously, my mind resets, I wake up ready to take on the next party – a spring in my step and smile on my face.