400: That’s how many meals I prepared this weekend, with considerable assistance from my family.
The Louisville Contra Dancers hold an annual dance weekend at O’Bannon Woods State Park, and this is the second time I’ve catered most of their meals (3 meals Saturday and all-morning brunch Sunday). The event sold out, with 100 participants coming to dance, attend workshops, and enjoy an absolutely beautiful spring weekend in the Indiana woods.
Here’s the easiest way to express how much food it takes to feed 100 people for 4 meals: 1 Saturn Vue full. The shopping took 4 hours, and at the end my car was full. As in, stacked to the roof everywhere except the driver’s seat. My husband came home at lunchtime to help me unload and locate storage places for all the food for the 2 days until the event. Fortunately my mother has an extra refrigerator in her garage; Doug emptied out all the soft drinks and filled the fridge and freezer with salad, vegetables, lunch meat, and more. Our upright freezer in the garage was full to overflowing with garlic toast. And our refrigerator brimmed with 20 pounds of butter, 4 gallons of milk, and 8 dozen eggs.
I spent much of Friday making cookies, brownies, and chocolate chip cake. Saturday morning the kids and I got up at 5:00 a.m. (an hour that I don’t normally admit exists) and headed out on the scenic 45-minute drive to the park. They both volunteered to go out early with me, rather than coming a few hours later with their dad, and I was delighted. They were a huge help, and having them there made everything more fun (and much easier!). Talk about quality time with my children: this was it.
The kitchen at O’Bannon Woods State Park’s group campground is … eclectic. For one thing, you have to bring with you absolutely everything you may need in the way of cookware, utensils, storage, and cleaning supplies. I’ve made a list for next time, because this year I forgot to take measuring cups and a whisk, and we could have used more knives. And then there’s the stove. I’m sure it’s the ultimate in unbreakable, low-maintenance appliances for high-use group facilities, but it’s a pain in the ass. It has 6 burners, 2 of which didn’t work. The burners aren’t gas, and they aren’t standard electric coils or the newer flat burners. I can’t find a picture online: Envision a metal disk about an inch thick and the diameter of a standard burner. Sounds fine, but there are two problems: 1. Any pan you place on the burner must have an absolutely flat bottom, so it makes contact with the disk at all points. If the pan is slightly curved or warped, you can’t boil water in it. 2. The disks stay hot approximately forever. I’m used to turning a burner off or to a lower setting and having it cool relatively quickly. These take a very, very long time to adjust downward.
Another exciting feature of the kitchen is the walk-in refrigerator. The light within is dim, the walls and shelves dark metal, the air frigid, the overall effect extremely creepy. The large, heavy door sticks just enough that every time you have to go in, you wonder for just a moment whether you’ll be able to get out.
Despite the eccentricities of the kitchen, everything went extremely well. During the course of the day Saturday, the kids and I took turns at napping in the back of the car when we had some downtime, enjoying the lovely breeze blowing in an open door. Once the pasta buffet was set up for Saturday dinner, I left to play with Guilderoy Byrne at the Blue River Cafe, and Doug and the kids cleaned things up. I got home at 11:00 p.m., and yet managed to pull myself out of bed again at 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Doug and I headed back out to the camp to handle brunch; our daughter drove herself and her brother to church (it’s great to have a child who can drive!). We were finished at noon after a very successful morning. At home again, I took a 3-hour nap, and after dinner I went to play at Brendan’s. (Yes, in the big scheme of things it would have been better not to have 2 band gigs the same weekend as the cooking. I’m just glad I had time to sleep.)
It was an excellent weekend all around. We got every meal ready on time; and the attendees, hungry from their dancing, were very happy with the food. I did a better job this year of estimating quantities and ended up with fewer left-overs. It was wonderful to have my family working with me; we had a lot of fun, so despite the long hours I was never stressed. And the money we earned will be a huge help toward our upcoming summer vacation. Who knew that a killer weekend could make me so happy and satisfied? 🙂
Oh — if you’re interested, here’s the menu:
8 -10:30 a.m. Breakfast
— Assorted cereals & milk
— Assorted Danish pastries
— Bagels, cream cheese, peanut butter, jelly
— Mixed fruit
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Lunch
— Assorted breads, meats, cheeses, and hummus for sandwiches
— Veggie pasta salad
— Black bean and couscous salad
— Assorted chips
— Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and snickerdoodle cookies
5:30 – 7:30 Dinner
— Spaghetti and rotini pasta
— Marinara, alfredo, and pesto sauces
— Vegetable lasagna
— Green salad
— Garlic toast
— Chocolate chip cake
— Orange cream fruit salad
9 a.m. – noon Brunch
— Biscuits with sausage gravy, jelly, honey
— Cheese grits
— Mini quiches
— Asparagus with lemon butter
— Vegetables and dip
— Mixed fruit
— Left-over sandwich supplies, salads
— Triple-chocolate brownies