CAVEAT: This was written a few months ago. Took me a season to recover from the shock, I’ll admit, but I got there eventually.
I have something to admit. I’m completely terrified.
I’m talking pee-my-own-pants kind of terror. Every time I think of the wedding, I force myself to latch onto my loosie-goosie meditation practice and the air whipping past my nostrils in tiny, hyperventillating puffs. Deep, calming breaths, I tell myself. Everything will be fine because everything always has been fine. Every time. Except maybe not this time. Oh my holy fuck, what I am doing? Breathing. I’m breathing. Et cetera.
The people whose wedding I’m catering were sent my way by a mutual friend, a farmer with a big beard and long hair who always has a runny nose, and whose children are so articulate it makes me want to squish them into little bitty bits. The soon-to-be-wed couple are equally adorable. They bring glass jars in which to put the cheese they buy at the marketplace and they have a wily sheep who’s always getting out of her designated area and terrorizing the neighbor’s canola crop. They’re so nice that I almost feel bad charging them money.
Almost. When they first approached me, their needs were simple. Tarts and bread, they said. For 100 people.
“Sure,” says I. “No problemo.”
I got home and tried to figure out how in the name of God I’m going to make tarts for 100 people in my dinky oven, to say nothing of the bread. Because that is the key to being an entrepreneur, I tells myself–don’t think. Just say YES. Even when you have no plan and your infrastructure is all over the place, YOU SAY YES.
Except then they asked to come over for a little chat. And told me their catering woes.
Evidently, they’d gone to a local ‘traiteur’ as they’re called here, some young hotshot, and he had done nothing but disappoint. I’m stealing his business so I should probably be magnanimous about it, but he seriously messed this deal up. They asked him to propose some ‘creative sauces’ to go with the crudité platter and he, I kid not, suggested
Sauce Blanche (a kind of creamy herb thing that is used on kebabs over here)
Sauce Samurai (another French kebab favorite, a mysterious orange sauce with the consistency of hair gel)
I mean, if he’d had an empathetic bone in his body, he would have taken one look at these people and understood, immediately, without question, that they were a couple of dyed-in-the-wool hippies, and what do hippies not want? KEBAB SAUCES for their wedding! In fact, I don’t know anybody who wants kebab sauces for their wedding, but that’s beside the point.
Anyhow, this is when I swooped in.
“Can you cater our wedding? The whole thing?” they asked, looking so sweet and friendly that I had to say
“Why, certainly, I can cater your wedding, the whole thing.”
“Oh, that is just wonderful. Thank you ever so.”
“My pleasure.” I smile beatifically.
“Did we mention that we’ve decided to go vegetarian for New Year’s?”
My stomach does a little flop. “Hem, no. You did not.” I immediately start trying to think of vegetarian mains suitable for a wedding. This is at best an exercise in creativity, at worst in futility. I tell myself that it is far too early for panic.
“And we’re also inviting 200 people for the collation.”
I didn’t even know what a collation was, but did I really need to? My brain heard ‘200 people’ and my heart shat itself straight out of my chest.
They offered me another homemade pâte de fruit (a kind of fruit jelly bonbon, scrumptious). I ate it without even tasting how homemade and organic it was.
I asked what a collation entailed (it’s a cute way of saying ‘snack’). I calmed down a little. Okay. 200 people for snacks = doable.
“And we’re inviting 150 people for dinner. Not 100.” The bride-to-be got very serious for a moment. “Now, if this is too much, you just let us know. We don’t want to overload you. Oh, and could you make enough extra food for sixty people the day afterwards?”
What do I say to that? What is there to say? There is nothing to say, there are only noises to make, noises that imply things like ‘omfg I die’ or ‘are you people crazy’ or ‘this is when I take my leave, Madame, Monsieur.’
“YES!” I said. “It is absolutely possible. No problem. Got it covered. I’ll send you a proposed menu next week. Anything else?”
“Can you still make bread and dessert? Oh, and we would love if everything could be organic, local, and seasonal.”
As soon as they left, I went out back and shot myself. I am actually writing this from the afterlife. Where nothing changes, I’m sorry to say, not even your anxieties about catering a wedding. Some things you just never leave behind.
I spent the next week agonizing. I charted the production times of certain vegetables, called local farmers, decided to make a cold menu with hot bread. Mezze platters, with lots of fun sauces (baba ganouche, tzitziki, hummus, herbed oils and fresh local produce all over the place). Green and red gazpacho for the collation, with little toasts and cakes to go with. Cookies. Free-form fruit tarts. I sent them my ideas. They loved it. I had the green light.
So I went to talk to our mutual farmer friend, from whom I’d be getting the majority of the produce. I gave him the run-down.
“Nope,” he said.
I stopped in mid-sentence. “Non?”
“Non. No tomatoes in July. Not until the end of the month. No eggplant, either, or bell peppers, and I’ll have to check if I have enough lentils left from last year.”
What kind of place is this? Who doesn’t have tomatoes in JULY for Pete’s sake??
Because what is gazpacho made of? Tomatoes. And bell peppers. What does a mezze platter revolve around? Tomatoes. Eggplant. Lentils.
SEASONALITY I HATE YOU.
It doesn’t help that I’m from Florida, where everything grows from March to October whether you like it or not. Here in Normandy, I’ve had pepper plants growing in full sun for two months and they’re still the size of a pack of cigarettes. Plants in haute normandie have whims. They will grow furiously for a week and then, poof!, a second winter sets in and you’ve got root rot and green icicle pops.
I went back to the drawing board. Of course, by this time, the bride and groom had invested in some super antique soup tureens and about a bajillion wine glasses for the gazpacho, as planned, so I had to figure something out.
Long story short, I decided to change everything. This is what happens when you’re living seasonally–you no longer decide. You can only react. There is, I am sure, a profound lesson about life and love and letting go in the middle of all this, but at the moment I am far too blinded by panic to see it.
Except, okay. Maybe not. I’ll admit, I kind of love it. It’s crazy, this wedding, but it’s also exactly the kind of torture I crave. Trying to do right is so bloody hard sometimes, but when it’s all said and done, I give in to nature’s left hook. I support local businesses, living in reality and not on planet strawberries-in-October, and doing good work for nice people. For now, at least. For now.