One year ago this month, several memorable events happened in our family. First and foremost, my younger sister's son married a wonderful young woman he'd met during his academic tenure at the University of Indiana. Wanting a comfortable location for her "base-camp" and the rehearsal dinner she would be hosting, my sister (Sally) rented a house on a steep wooded hill over looking beautiful Lake Monroe in Bloomington Indiana. The house was perfectly laid out for a party, with a broad, deep porch spanning the entire lake-side of the house, a beautiful living room and den with windows overlooking the lake, and a separate, hillside-dining room and kitchen.
If you've followed this blog for any time, you know that Peter and I love to cook and have many years of restaurant experience between us, so we offered to help Sally cater the party. We began by providing "the kids" with a list of what could be offered for appetizers, main courses, sides, and desserts and asked them to pick three from each category. Once those decisions were made and we felt fairly certain we knew how many people would be coming (about 35), the real work began.
Sally and I "proportionalized" each and every recipe, figuring whether we'd have to make 2, 3 or 4 times the original recipe. Once that was done, one cloudy Sunday morning, over a large cup of coffee, I totalled up the ingredients across all of those recipes, even down to the salt. Believe it or not, that told me we were going to need roughly twelve pounds of fresh tomatoes, four filet mignons, three turkey breasts, seven pounds of sugar, three pounds of apples, and a modicum of several spices .... amongst other things.
During her summer visit, with the menu finalized, Sally and I opened the china and storage closets to identify which platters, bowls, and serving instruments we might need for the buffet table. Once one was decided upon, she applied a "stickie note" to it identifying what it would be serving that evening. Between Sally's cabinets and mine, we assigned each dish to a carrier with a specific serving spoon or fork. See we've all been around rental properties and know how they tend to provide only the basics. For this event, we couldn't fall short so we agreed that it would be best to "bring it from home".
Now - we had to ask - "From what will the guests be drinking their sweet tea?", and "Upon what and with what would they be eating their dinner?" My sister is amazingly resourceful and economical while maintaining very good taste, and having researched renting versus buying, she bought flatware, glassware, and dinner and dessert plates to serve the entire party. Packing all of this, in addition to the necessary pots, pans, roasting pans, spatulas, collanders, carving knives, and several kitchen appliances in our separate cars - one departing from the east end of Long Island, the other from Memphis, Tennessee, we set out for Bloomington, Indiana.
We arrived at the house on Monday, unpacked, acquainted ourselves with the kitchen and local stores, and set about planning the party in this special house. The forecast for Friday night was good, so Sally smartly decided to rent some round tables, chairs, and table cloths for the outside deck. There was a large bookcase in the living room at the end of the entry hall, the perfect location for beverages and hors d'oeuvres. The dining room table was the exact size to hold the buffet, and plates, napkins and flatware could be set out on the sideboard.
Prep and cooking for the party began in earnest on Wednesday and was nearly done by early Friday afternoon except for roasting the turkeys and grilling the steaks - "AND THEN IT HAPPENED" ... As Peter was draining the shrimp, I felt water on the floor and thought he'd accidentally spilled, but then we both noticed a small flood flowing from under the sink. It was very quickly and painfully clear that there was a serious problem just four hours before the first guests were to arrive for the pre-wedding party. Contacting the owner's voice mail, resulted in two "handymen" showing up, who surveyed the situation and very smartly said they'd consult with a real plumber and return the next day, which they never did. We found it alarmingly unentertaining that they departed right after noting that there was an electrical outlet in the same cabinet where water flowed from the hole in the pipe everytime we turned on the water.
The first guests who arrived were some very industrious friends of the bride and groom and they were no more able to fix our issues than the handymen had been. So .... we all decided "the show must go on", thanked our lucky stars that we'd prepared so much in advance, put on big smiles, placed a sign on the sink that said "Do NOT Use This Sink For ANY Reason", and went about enjoying the guests and the party.
The kitchen snafus didn't go completely unnoticed by the guests, but it didn't become the center of attention either, that was rightly reserved for the bride and groom. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, each other, the beautiful view and sunset over Lake Monroe.
Dishes were simply scraped and stacked in neat piles as they returned to the kitchen. When the evening was over, we quickly confirmed that the dish washer ... attached to that leaking sink had been rendered useless as well, so "What to do with all of those dishes, flatware and glasses, to say nothing of the greasy roasting pans and utensils?" The only things in sight were the coolers we'd brought so much of the food in, so that's what we did ... we neatly packed as much as we could into all of our coolers, turned on the garden hose and filled them to the brim with cold water. They spent the next 36 hours soaking ... outside ....in the carport ...
With the happy couple wed, we awoke Sunday morning perplexed at best. What were we going to do with all of the dirty dishes and pans - you know the ones we'd brought from home. By now the only drain that worked was in the upstairs bathroom and that was in the bathtub. Pam, our older sister, and her husband Bill arrived around eight as we were packing everything in sight, still trying to determine what could and should be done about those coolers and their contents. Thus was created "the summer kitchen".
Pam and Bill rolled up their sleeves, grabbed a big jug of Dawn (the grease cutting dish-washing liquid), turned on the garden hose and began ... washing dish after dish, plate after plate, fork after fork, etc. laying them out on the asphalt driveway to air dry. As this was happening outside, Peter (my husband) was washing the roasting pans and large serving platters in the bathtub, and Sally and I were packing boxes of glasses, spices, scales and juicers, as well as our sheets, towels, cameras, and music. That last day was one of real team work and a herculean effort on everyone's part. Do you know that expression "You can't make this stuff up"? Well you can't.
When everything was degreased, dried and packed for the journey home, the five of us sat on the deck enjoying the view, the late summer breeze, and the warm feelings working together toward a specific end always seems to create. The party and wedding were each a great success, and at the end of the day everything and everyone came together for the happy couple. Now this is the stuff that memories are made of!
Rehearsal Dinner Menu:
Bite-size HomemadeLeek Tarts
Chilled Tomato Basil Soup
Chilled Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
Herb-roasted Turkey Breast
Pasta Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes
Green Beans with Dried Cherries and Toasted Walnuts
Fruit and Cheese
Homemade Lemon Bars
Homemade Ginger Snaps