A Good Gig Going: A Career in Pie-tasting

While we knew that planning a wedding can be stressful, we didn’t realize just how many details must be considered and decisions made.   They range from the mundane, such as selecting the color of the napkins or deciding whether the first dance should be before the meal or after, to the more significant and enjoyable.  In the latter category, I’d include the writing of vows or, in our case, determining the wording of our ketubah (Jewish marriage contract).  And, the selection of a caterer.   Yes, deciding what foods we’d serve would be a highlight of the wedding planning process.

I don’t know if you know, but it’s common practice for wedding caterers to offer potential clients a chance to taste their cuisine.  Often such tastings are free, and you can choose from a large variety of yummy sounding menu items.  For anyone who likes to try new foods, the opportunity to try a chef’s most creative offerings can be a taste of heaven.  (Sorry for the pun….).  In fact, I’ve often thought of making it a practice to plan my own wedding over and over again so that I can indulge in such tastings on a regular basis.

Well, in the end – because of limited time and (I’ll admit….) the guilt factor – we had just two tastings from two different caterers.  We used one of them before and were inclined to go with it because we liked their food, enjoyed working with the owner, and supported her philosophy around food production and consumption.  Plus, we liked the company name, Green Plate Catering.  Their menus emphasize locally-grown, seasonal, organic ingredients prepared in a healthy manner and artfully presented.  This was just what we were looking for at our “green” wedding.  Our choice of foods to be served would be one way we could demonstrate how to consume sustainably.

Back to my story about the tastings.  As I said, we did indulge ourselves by inviting another catering company, recommended by friends who had recently married, to present us with their finest wedding fare.  They offered to come to our home and serve us for free, so how could we refuse?  All we needed to do was choose a date and time, and let them use our oven to reheat what they had prepared.

At exactly the designated time, three members of their team arrived:  the chef in a white hat, toting bags of food; the marketing man with his clipboard, and the nicely dressed wedding organizer.   While we sat at the dining room table, discussing wedding plans and learning about their service, the chef got busy in the kitchen.  In no time at all, several small plates of food – selections from our proposed menu – appeared before us.  We tasted, evaluated, and commented, appreciating some of the items but finding others too rich for our palettes.  After taking the last bite, we looked up to find a very clean kitchen, with leftovers neatly put away in our refrigerator.   Pretty nice to have a free gourmet meal without having to lift a finger in the kitchen, nor leave the house!

Green Plate Catering, which we ended up opting for, had us come to their kitchen for the tasting.  They had a reception area with a small table and chairs, and offered the proposed menu on the very dishes that we would later use at the wedding.  Again, we chewed, savored and appraised, while discussing logistics and happily sating ourselves.

The best part, however, was when it came time for dessert.  (Isn’t that always the way??!!)  We had requested wedding pie instead of cake since neither of us are cake fans and we both love fruit pies.  The caterer told us that she works with a pastry chef and that they could create a pie to our liking.  Good news, as the first company didn’t do pies, and we’d have had to find someone else to supply them.

As a pie maker myself, I’m pretty picky about the crust and the filling.  And, Eileen, as the admiring and happy consumer of my pies, is similarly fastidious.  The crust should be thin and flaky, and the filling shouldn’t be gelatinous or sweet.   Our caterer was in agreement, and luckily she had equally high standards and a good dose of patience.  Little did she realize how useful those qualities would be.

Hopes were up when she brought out that first pie, artfully designed and prepared by her pastry chef.  It was beautiful, rimmed with hearts made of pastry dough.  But, as soon as we cut into it, we knew it wouldn’t work.  The crust was thick, really thick, on the bottom, top and sides, and the filling between the pieces of fruit looked gluey.  We dug into it anyway, and while I conceded that it tasted pretty good, it just wasn’t right.  The caterer offered to have her chef make us another.

On a Friday afternoon a couple of weeks later we got a call that our pie was ready.  We raced up to her kitchen, knowing that pie is best when it’s fresh, and sat down, with our mouths salivating.  Before cutting, it looked like the crust would be fine, but again, as soon as the knife came out, we realized that there was not much improvement.  Too thick, again.  And, the fruit had been cut so small that you couldn’t tell the rhubarb from the strawberries.  “No problem,” said the caterer.  “We’ll try again.”  “Okay,” we responded, trying not to appear too dismayed.

A week or so later, the call came again, and we returned for a third tasting.  Still not quite right – the insides were too runny.  The caterer agreed and promised us that they’d get it right before the wedding.  By this time, I figured we weren’t going to get another chance to try yet another version.  After all, how many free pies can an unmarried couple expect?  But, another week or so later – just ten days before our wedding – we again got a call.

“Come on by and see if this one works.  I’ve instructed the pastry chef to use a different crust recipe and a new thickener.”  We were delighted.  And again, made the trip to visit our now-favorite pie purveyor.  I hate to say it, but again the three of us agreed that improvements still needed to be made.   I started to feel like we were being overly demanding, too exacting, but the caterer disagreed, and the pastry chef – who we ran into on one of our many visits to their kitchen – did not seem offended by our constant rejections and suggestions for betterment.

At that point, I began to consider delaying the wedding for six months or so.  After all, we had a good gig going, and if we could continue this pie tasting thing – with neither of the vendors getting perturbed – we’d do pretty well for ourselves.  Maybe we’d gain some weight before the wedding, but heck, we had a great seamstress who could easily let our dresses, if needed.  And, getting to taste a freshly-made pie every week, each one slightly better than the previous, would more than make up for the bother of having to reschedule….

Postscript:

Needless to say, we didn’t postpone the wedding.  Nor was there time for a fifth tasting.  We arrived at the wedding not knowing how our pies would be, but truth be told, by that time the flakiness of the crust and the gooeyness of the filling were the last things on our minds.  And, when it came time to cut the pies, it really didn’t matter.  The main pie – baked in a heart-shaped pan, with a lattice top and the pink strawberry-rhubarb filling peaking through – looked gorgeous.  So beautiful that it took the cake!

And everyone lived happily ever after.

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About abitravel

I'm a lucky person since I've combined my two major passions, conservation and travel, into a profession of sorts. When I'm not organizing or leading an ecotour to Latin America or beyond, I engage in freelance writing and enjoy outdoor activities with my wife. That's the nutshell version!
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