When I asked my now patient WIFE whether I should write about catering my own wedding or about the amazing food we ate on our honeymoon in Malaysia, she was quick to reply. “Write about catering the wedding, people love hearing about people being foolish.”
I don’t know how I didn’t lose it. I still have the advice of my new Father-in-Law echoing in my head, “Keep it simple Theo.” At least give me a chance to explain myself. If you have had a wedding or just paid for one, you realize that a huge portion of your budget goes to the caterer. We were on a limited budget and I always envisioned great food at my wedding. So why would I pay someone a huge chuck of cash to serve mediocre canapés?
But let me emphasize, my wedding did not just feature my food nor did it rely solely on my shoulders. As I said, if you are crazy enough to attempt this yourself, you must have wonderful friends.
Let me back up a couple of years – I moved to Portland, Maine in 2005 immediately following culinary school. I was attracted to its reputation as an up and coming food center. It has some great chefs working there and wonderful local ingredients. Even though I did not have a good time living there (probably because I relocated with my girlfriend at the time who turned out to be… I am not going to go there). Anyway, I met two wonderful people working in kitchens up there, and it made me realize how life can work in mysterious ways. To meet friends like MA and Camile, you normally have to endure many years in many different kitchens. They are both incredibly talented chefs that I would turn over a kitchen to in a heartbeat.
I remember having discussions with Camille about the menu. I thought I had everything under control, but without using my own kitchen to stage the event I was in trouble early. Breakdowns and chaos reigned supreme. Let me emphasize that this was on my end, not on my friends’ end. I was turning into the Incredible Hulk. Weeks before the wedding I started prepping stuff for the freezer. My first thought was to grind, stuff, and freeze as much sausage as humanly possible in the weeks prior to the wedding. Plus, I could make all the sauces a week out from the wedding. I could also make all the charcuterie for the wedding as well. I had a plan damn it!
The menu was supposed to be a blend of several ideas, but I wanted it to be easy. It relied heavily on the grill. The roast pig was meant to express a bit of my bride’s half-Latina heritage. (Nick came through with the pig box – now he is starting his own company – one man, one pig. I think you get the idea. Yet he did not seem too happy when cleaning the damn box or when he stepped in poop.) And there were French Fries with numerous sauces to please the Belgian half of my bride. What about my full Jewish two halves? Since I didn’t have a Bar Mitzvah, I went with a lot of pigs in a blanket (it doesn’t get any better than that), yet the friggin caterer couldn’t serve them hot for Christ sake!
Friday was the toughest day. My friends arrived and I was already in the weeds. I can’t explain the emotion, but I just simply started crying into Camile’s shoulder. I was late to my own rehearsal at the barn, I showed up wearing an apron. I do not really know how they did it or how they did it so well. But without them, there wouldn’t have been a wedding. On Saturday, when I started freaking out, Camile was there to calm me down. She is a true friend who together with MA really knows how to cook. By catering my own wedding a learned more about friendship than food.
In the end, a wedding isn’t about the food. The food doesn’t matter. It is the very real and very blessed union of two people who love and respect each other. I love my wife, and I will never cater another wedding again. But I am not saying anything about when we renew our vows…
By the way, if you live up north – in Maine – and you need someone to cater an event, let me know. I know two people who would be perfect.