I think of myself at times as a niche cook.
I fit in where other people are too big, or too clunky.
I’m good at that. Filling in the cracks.
Which is what happened last night.
My friend asked me a couple of months ago if I’d be interested in catering an outside event for 35 people.
Hors d’oeuvres + five courses = a good time
I say yes. I really have no other option. Saying yes to things is the only way, I think.
I purchase a large country ham from Benton’s up in Tennessee.
I source my grains and peas from Anson Mills over there in South Carolina.
My quail is from Georgia.
And well, I am a dude from Mississippi who learned to cook in Oregon.
I prepped and cooked and stored two hors’doeuvres, and five courses in my tiny apartment kitchen. Not to mention three allergy people, having me make four separate courses.
I started cooking on a Thursday and didn’t stop until 11:30 on a Saturday night.
We had been watching the weather, because it’s Mississippi in the summer time. It’s going to rain, it’s just a matter of when. So we pushed our host to really consider moving it inside. He kept insisting that we try to have it outside. We kept saying he should REALLY move it inside. He kept saying to wait. So, we did.
And it rained. And rained and rained. And blew out our fires. My friends at my back, holding our tent down as the thunderstorm raged above us. Beside us. Underneath us.
The dinner party had relocated to under the gazebo while I was mid-way through cooking my pork belly dish.
Saron, my friend and our event coordinator, ran under our kitchen tent and we pushed around a few options involving some restaurants that were closed, that would house us on such short notice.
So, we called my boss and he okayed that we move to my other place of business. We hustled and yelled and got soaked. But now we were in our element. Ovens. Sinks. Warmers. Thank God.
The party had congregated in the front of the restaurant. Wet, but laughing from all the strong drinks. We pushed together tables. Turned on some music and started to assemble.
Sorghum Molasses cured Pork Belly, with charred peach, soy/honey vinaigrette, benne seed
Chicory Salad with Green Goddess Dressing, Gorgonzola, Radish
Duck and Andouille Gumbo, Louisiana Jasmine Rice, with Crispy Duck Skin, Scallion
Quail with Sea Island Red Peas, Black Garlic Puree
Banoffee Pie with Bittersweet Chocolate
I walked out of the kitchen at 1:30am. So proud of my team for hustling and keeping a good attitude. This was one of those situations where you reap what you sow. And I’ve worked hard to treat my people well and with respect and dignity, and it showed. That’s what makes this stuff so insanely rich. I am never poor in company and friends. Goodness gracious.
Having maybe eaten two or three times in the past three days, I collapsed on my sofa.
I reached for whatever I had in my box from the night containing most of my mise en place.
Rice crackers and pimiento cheese.
I fell asleep with my hand in the container.
Stood up, brushed my teeth and fell into bed.
The life of a cook.
Ya know, it’s not so bad.