I got the call way too early for my taste [ed. note – the way my insomnia manifests varies, but lately it has me finally finding sleep just after sunrise. So calls before 9am are highly unpleasant.] Her voice was way too perky for pre-caffeinated discussion. However, she quickly identified herself as a new client, so I rallied my attentions to have a good conversation. We coverec her planned date (last Saturday,) how she came to contact me (referral from this client,) the number of guests, style of food, and then I heard the two words that stir concern in the heart of any service industry professional:
I have long considered the pre-marriage descent into bacchanalian excess to be to be in the same category as tequila shots, dates with ex’s, and Kevin Costner films*. That is to say: things that have the patina of a good idea but whose shine quickly fades leaving nothing but the dull hue of impending regrets.
Against better judgment, and all prior experience, I took the gig anyway. Mostly because it was a referral from a good client, but also because August is too slow of a month to turn down business. I did have a couple of conditions:
- I will not be making anything in the shape of a penis.
- I will not use any cheesy double-entendres in the names of any dish, cocktail, or wine.
- Should there be any strippers involved in the evening, they may not appear until after the dessert course had been cleared.
…and I still knew that it was a bad idea.
The second indication that I should have rejected this gig, was the host preference that I not hire an assistant for service and prep (six guests are not too much for me to handle solo, but the evening goes so much more smoothly with another set of hands.) I certainly should have expressed more concern when the wine order included double the booze that I would have stocked for my hard-drinking friends.
The host, the bride-to-be, and two bridesmaids were already there when I arrived four hours before the cocktail hour. The first hour of prep proceeded without a hitch… then they all came into the kitchen. I don’t mind questions while I cook but after the second bottle of champagne was popped, their queries took a decidedly more lurid tone. It was the laziness and insincerity of the flirtations that bothered me most. None of them were truly directed at me as much as they were intended for an objectified me – I was simple a placeholder representing any man in their proximity. The pack dynamic was fully displayed with each of these woman trying to one-up the others. It was unseemly.
By the time I served the Prosecco Poached Berries with Hazelnut Whipped Cream I had endured a handful of inappropriate touches, too many flaccid innuendos to count, and overheard a baker’s dozen of suggestions about ways to use “any sauce [I] had left over.”
[ed. note: I am not suggesting – even for the split second it takes to over-poach an egg – that my experience is in any way comparable to what too many women endure in the presence of undignified men.]
As I was cleaning, the host and the maid of honor came into the kitchen to thank me for my efforts, and to “apologize if the girls got a little too rowdy.” The host, followed that by placing a handful of bills in the back pocket of my jeans as a tip.
I was almost done packing my things when she came into the kitchen once more.
“Refugee, everything really was lovely, I’m never cooking for a dinner party again. Are you available the first Saturday of October for another dinner of about the same size?”
“No, I’m not” I replied with a full stop that I hoped would prevent further inquiry.
“Oh, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you’re booked that far in advance” the host said with a slight slur.
I should have left things there, but my lessor demons shouted down the better angles so I responded “I didn’t say I was booked, just that I’m not available.”
*exceptions made for The Untouchables & Bull Durham… and maybe Dances with Wolves too