So I did it. I bloody well pulled it off. I catered my very first bridal shower.
After weeks of planning, careful and otherwise, and two hectic days of preparing food, the day is over, and furthermore I am still alive to relay the account…
Our invitation stated, “Victorian inspired English tea party, and sport your finest hats.”
I had no idea what the implications would be of such a few words.
For those curious in such matters I will mention the food I had prepared, if you find detailed descriptions of food a rather dull detail I hereby give you permission to jump straight to the next paragraph.
On Saturday I prepared over one hundred and twenty tartlets. Basically miniature, single mouthful, tarts. I made them in three varieties, raspberry, apricot, and my favorite, lemon curd. After making my mom’s pastry recipe (she would have been so proud, or maybe embarrassed I am not quite sure.) After a lot of kneading I rolled it out deliciously thin, and utilize a small wine glass to cut out circles. I used a mini muffin pan, and baked the pre-baked the crusts, filled them, and then re-baked them to a golden brown. I had to do it in several batches- as I only had two muffin pans. So the whole process took a mind numbing three hours. The following day I topped them with a dollop of fresh cream, and then garnished them with a fresh raspberry, toasted almonds, or sugared lemon rind appropriately.
Then I set to the task of preparing eighty plus scones. This was an easier process, as the recipe I have had in my head since I was about eight, again I made them in batches, and it took a couple of hours. They baked up perfectly, lots of height and came out the ideal shade of brown.-So far so good. I thought—so far so bloody good.
Yesterday I had every intention of bouncing out of my bed at five thirty and skipping down the stairs with wild enthusiasm and energy and sing gaily classic show tunes at the top of my voice as I masterfully and quickly constructed all the food. There was a snafu in my plan. A snafu of epic proportions I feel obliged to say. I am a bit of a worrier, and as this shower is for my favorite nice, the very same niece that introduced me to my wonderful wife, and therefore is to thank for all the amazing years since…I wanted everything to be simply perfect. The Martha syndrome I call it. So, when I should have been blissfully in the land of nod, dreaming of sugar plum fairies and fluffy puppies, I was restlessly turning and tossing, and tossing and turning. So was my wife.
At about quarter to eight, I finally rolled out of my bed, sighed, and stumbled downstairs to begin the coffee.
The day before I had made out a list, down to every fifteen minutes of all that needed to be accomplished in the kitchen prior to one o clock. The mob, I mean the guests, were going to begin their home invasion at two.
As my coffee maker all too slowly made that first cup of coffee I realized that even before I started I was behind schedule.
My wife and her sister had, the day before, taken care of most of the decorations. We have all the Christmas decorations up, so it was an easier operation. We had rented two six foot tables for the breakfast nook, and had rented red and white lines on them In the dining room was matching linens, and on them sat neatly arranged the fifty English bone china teacups that I had purchased from E-bay, and the same amount of side plates. They were all mixed, and some were well over a hundred years old. We also had a basket with all the shower gifts for the guests. We purchased in bulk various lavender lotions, and sachets and such like and bagged them up in threes in clear bags, tied them with ribbon. They came out rather well.
Flowers were everywhere, and to go with the vases she used tea pots to arrange the flowers…very pretty.
But, as always I digress, the point was she was ahead of schedule. There was nothing for it; I needed to recruit her and my teenage son for sous-chef duties. They were thrilled. So we set about boiling the pasta, shredding the chicken breasts and the chopping and dicing that was required. Then a little later my brother and sister-in-law arrived and were also handed aprons. I shall not elaborate on what was said and done as the five of us got down the list…I naturally was the man in charge, and I have meticulous standards. But, as you know, we got it done by half twelve…
All the trays were there, arranged and garnished on the tables in the breakfast nook.
All the sandwiches had there crust cut off, and were cut into bonnie sized rectangle, triangles or squares.
We had tarragon Chicken on whole wheat, goat cheese and water cress on raisin bread, with one side of the crust dipped into pecans pieces, smoked salmon, open face on pumpernickel with wasabi cream cheese, topped with cilantro and lemon peel, and cream cheese and cucumber on white bread.
Then I had a Greek pasta salad, and a minted melon salad.
I was exhausted, but finished. We set out the Devonshire cream, strawberry jam and such like and fussed with a few of the garnishes, and then gazed contently at what we had accomplished.
It was about then that the lady of the hour arrived, my niece Christina. As soon as she walked in, I can discern, by the amazed expression on her face that she was both delighted and impressed. Somehow that look made all the effort worthwhile- I wanted to give her a day to remember- and it looked as if I might have succeeded. We gave her the guided tour, and she began to nibble on a few sandwiches.
Then we realized that father time was marching boldly forward- we needed to get ready.
So my wife jumped into the bath tub- and I in the shower- with one eye each continually on the clock. It is amazing how slow- or how quickly- an hour can go by depending on the circumstances. In this case an hour felt more like eight minutes and thirty six seconds, as time literally flew by.
It was when I was putting on my freshly pressed white dress shirt that my courage slipped.
“I can’t do it,” I said. “As all the food is set up to go, why don’t you play hostess Boo?” (Yes, I call my lovely wife Boo, don’t ask…No seriously please don’t ask.)
Boo looked at me.
I looked at Boo.
Her eyes widened.
My eyes flickered.
“Okay Gif,” she finally said as her facial features softened. “You have already done your part- I will take it from here.”
I felt like doing a quick series of triple somersaults right there on the spot- But after a moment reconsidering simply gave my wife a big hug.
“Best of luck,” I whispered softly into her ear.
I firmly closed the bedroom door. My brother-in-law had chosen my son’s room as a sanctuary- a woman free zone- and whilst he snoozed and snored peacefully, my son played video games.
However, my curiosity was not satiated. I wanted to see precisely who was going to turn up, and how many heeded the ‘wear a hat’ that was emblazoned on the invite.
We have a semi-enclosed outdoor patio adjourning the main bedroom, on it we have some plants and a wicker furniture set. I contently placed myself in one of the chairs, which happened to have a perfect, and more importantly discrete, view of the street and our front door.
I only had a few minutes to wait before the first car made its way down our street.
I must preface this by explaining that we live on a circle, that only has one way in and out. Being that it was Sunday afternoon, and many of the households have three or more cars, parking on the street was alas a premium commodity. Also I only knew a handful of the people coming, and some people were driving quite a distance to join us. There were going to be many of the new family members relatives there.
I watched as the first car slowly made its way down our street. We had tied brightly colored balloons to our mail box, so folks would have an easier time spotting us.
In the comfort of my hidden vantage point, I watched as they pulled up outside, then went to park across the street.
It was a large sized older American sedan, and they were attempting to squeeze it into a spot which would have been perfect for a compact Japanese vehicle.
I held my breath, as the car backed in. She would go half an inch at a time, stop for about ten seconds, and then continue. After a couple of minutes, with the car jutting out at an impossible angle, and her bumper a hairs length from a neighbor’s car, she got out of the vehicle to assess the situation. She walked about the car and studied it at every conceivable angle, then nodding; she climbed back into her vehicle.
She pulled out and began again. Not to bore anyone here, but this process repeated three times in all, as she approached it from various angles. It was quite exciting as I sat there watching in…And I had to give her credit for tenaciousness. Then finally, miracle of miracles, she managed to shoehorn her car in perfectly. She once more got out, and looked at the scene. Then she opened the back of the car, and placed a black tall hat onto her head, which had a large feather sticking out of the top of it, then as she stretched herself up and looking pleased with herself, strutted rather elegantly to our front door.
The door opened and I heard my wife, in her most refined voice say…
“Oh delighted that you could make it- please do come inside.”
Then several more cars began to come down our street, each one would pause at our driveway, and then go off in search of parking.
It was a wonderful insight to human nature, sitting there, watching people who had no idea they were being spied on…And there are incredible differences between age groups.
I found that the older generation were, without a doubt, the finest dressed. They all came with elegant hats on there glamorous hairdos- and walked with dignity. There outfits were formal, and perfectly matched. The hats came in all different shapes, styles and sizes. Some were discreet bonnet types; others were bold, brash, oversized ones that sat on their heads like small flying saucers.
The middle generation, which I consider myself to be of, was not as formal, and many came without any hats at all. However for the most people they tried to dress the part, and came semi-formal.
On ‘Batch’ of three ladies, who had to park on the far side of the block, meandered up the street.
“Let us get this over with,” one of them said as they came up the driveway.
Then they rang the doorbell, and my wife answered.
“Oh delighted that you could make it- please do come inside.” My wife cried.
“Oh we are absolutely delighted to be here,” they answered in unison in a bright, cheery and even perky tone in their voices. The instant transformation was profound.
Another lady arrived and nervously stood at the driveway for a few moments. As if contemplating whether or whether not, she should walk up the driveway. Then I watched as she adjusted her hat, took a deep breath, and made her way up the driveway, and she too rang the bell.
“Oh delighted that you could make it- please do come inside.” My wife said.
Then there were the under twenty-fives. One might consider it as a sad reflection of how society has changed. They all came casual, incredibly casual, not appearing to have made any effort in the least. Old jeans and sweaters.
Two girls in particular spring to mind. I did not see where they had parked, and walked up the sidewalk chewing gum.
They see our house.
“Spose this is it,” the one uttered.
Now our driveway is on an angle.
As they came up the driveway one complained.
“Oh my god, I just hate this driveway.”
Then they stopped and looked at our cars that were parked there (The garage was being utilized for storage for the day.)
“”Gosh, look at them pretending to be all posh and such.”
They then made the rest of the way up to the front door and rang the bell.
“Oh delighted that you could make it- please do come inside,” went the well rehearsed voice of my better half.
“Thanks soo much for inviting us,” they said “you have a lovely home.”
And so the day progressed. Within an hour the downstairs of the house was full of women. I never did venture downstairs, and took the time to catch up on some reading. I could tell by the copious amounts of laughing and giggling that everything was turning out okay. There were several typical bride shower games being held, another reason I felt it best to keep away. Lots of advice was apparently given on how to keep her new husband happy- I will allow you, dear reader, to imagine the sort of advice that was said. Some of it, from my wife’s account, would make your toes curl.
Also lots of bridal shower presents were given, including lots of pink boxes crammed full of lingerie, that if it had been sold by weight would have cost about a quarter.
At about five, I watched, as the procession slowly began to leave. I was delighted that most of the folks left smiling, and many were even carrying doggy bags of food.
The lady across the street again took ten minutes to ease maneuver her vehicle from the tight parking place, and I felt like clapping when victory was hers. The lady, who arrived all nervous, left transformed, singing to herself as she made her way down the street,. Even the two twenty something girls, seemed to have undergone an attitude adjustment.
“Wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” one said to the others they made their way down the driveway. I almost yelled something down to them, but managed to bite my tongue.
Shortly after, my wire came into the room.
“Well?’ I said.
“Well what?” she answered
“How did it go?”
“Oh,” she said as her eyes smiled at me. “Everyone loved it. Many said it was the finest Bridal shower they have ever gone to. Several more asked who had catered it, and claimed the food to be exquisite.”
I ventured downstairs to discover that indeed most of the food had gone.
My sister and brother-in-law were still there, and it was during the cleaning that it happened.
My sister-in-law looked at me in a very serious manner.
“You know in June I am throwing her baby shower at my house- Could you do the food for me?”