Thursday, March 17, 2011

Corned beef at Buffalo

A few weeks ago, I attended a Wednesday night dinner and program at Buffalo Presbyterian Church. It was a good experience, I even wrote a blog post about it. A few days later, I asked Loretta about the details of the Wednesday night meal. I indicated that I would be willing to volunteer to prepare one of the March meals if they needed someone. Loretta is blindingly efficient. Four hours and a flurry of phone calls and e-mails later, I was scheduled to prepare the March 16 meal. Since that was the night before St. Patrick's Day, the menu was to include corned beef and cabbage. No problem, that's one of my better meals to prepare.

Two weeks before the event, I set up my ingredient list and timeline for ordering and preparation for the meal. I had two goals in this project. First was that the service of the meal would go smoothly and that the food quality would be good. Barbara, the lady in charge, soothed my fears by telling me that if it went badly, she would choke me and Loretta would shoot me. I can't find that e-mail now, but I'm pretty sure that was the threatened order of violence. I'm sure that she was only kidding, but the meal went well, so I will never really know. (This is Gilbert humor, Barbara and Loretta!!)

My other goal was not to embarrass myself or anyone I know there. For those unfamiliar with this, profanity is the language of the kitchen. Watch Hell's Kitchen and listen to Gordon Ramsey. Gordon's profanity is low grade. It lacks variety and creativity. I could do better than him on a Sunday. Anyway, I resolved to watch my language closely on Wednesday night. I had one close call. The last 30 to 45 minutes before the meal service are the most stressful because that is the time that everything must fall into place. I was doing great until about 5:45 when I was trying to pan something and dropped a utensil on the floor. Thankfully, my lightning fast reflexes kicked in and I stopped just short of uttering one of my favorite words. Instead I just said "Whew! That was close!" A lady near me asked, "What was close?" I just shook my head and said "Nothing, nothing at all." I felt so good after getting through that I considered calling George W. Bush and asking to borrow the infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner.

At Buffalo, women's groups take turns doing the serving at the Wednesday night dinners. In an e-mail, Barbara told me that I would have helpers who would do exactly as I said. I realized then that it would be nothing like being at work. Barbara was right. There were several great ladies there to help with the setup and the serving. I should have written down their names, but the stress of feeding 65 or so people shoved my name remembering skills to the back of my mind. But I do remember a few names. Loretta was there early and helped plate the cake for dessert. She also cut my stress level with a pretty funny story, but I'm not telling that one tonight. Anne took care of putting the strawberries and whipped cream on the cake. Anne is a T&S customer so I won't say too much. I will say that it was worth cooking the meal just to watch her wrestle with the pastry bag filled with whipped cream. Hannah was a young lady who took care of serving the rolls and keeping the energy level in the room elevated. There was Joyce, who I believe served the potatoes. "Whipped Cream Anne" was tasked with serving the cabbage. To all of the other ladies who were in the kitchen helping, I'm sorry that I have forgotten your names. All of you did a great job and I look forward to working with you again!! Thanks for all of your work.

We served salad, rolls, corned beef, cabbage, boiled potatoes, and cake topped with strawberries and whipped cream. That's the best $5 meal in Greensboro. Everyone seemed to like the food. After we served everyone, I sat down to eat. I had a reserved seat at the Queen's table along with the Irish fiddler and her husband.

The program was pretty good. Patrick sang "Danny Boy" and Pam and the "Choir Girls" sang "An Irish Lullaby." The fiddler was good. At one point early in the program, I looked across the room and saw "Whipped Cream Anne" waving. Then I realized that she and the Queen were exchanging the little royal wave thing. Those two were killing me. I don't remember what was going on at that point in the program, but I'm pretty sure that I wasn't supposed to be laughing. Thanks, ladies. I'm a little vague on many of the other details of the program because at some point, Barbara told everyone to give me a standing ovation for the meal. I was torn between honored and embarrassed. I'm not sure that corned beef is worth a standing ovation! Thank you anyway.

Several people came up afterwards to compliment me on the meal. Ray and Betty were at the Queen's table with me. Thanks to both of them for their kind words.

So what were the final results of my cooking dinner at Buffalo??
First, it served as a reminder that you have to give to receive. I got enough out of it that I e-mailed Barbara and told her that I would be willing to volunteer again.
Second, I realized that I enjoyed being there. There's a New Members Class on Sunday. I'm planning to attend.


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