It seemed simple. An informal sandwich lunch, a speaker, dessert. Around fifty guests. Normally the Adult Education Committee presents a speaker at 1 p.m. followed by desserts and coffee, but this speaker was available earlier and the social hall was available earlier so the Committee chose to have an informal sandwich luncheon at 11 a.m., then the speaker, and then dessert. Doesn’t that sound simple and easy?
And it was simple and easy. Everyone on the committee signed up right away to bring a salad or dessert or beverage or a side dish, with one person ordering and picking up sandwich trays. All set – except for one small detail. There would be at least 45 attending so we planned food for 60. I made macaroni salad – that is I bought prepared macaroni salad and added an additional pound of cooked elbow macaroni, frozen peas, and chopped celery. And others followed suit with purchased potato salad, cole slaw, and dips, and a great variety of homemade and purchased desserts.
The normal group of 6 was assisted by 3 friends, crowding the 9 of us into a kitchen in which the 6 of us can barely walk around. It was more than busy with the newcomers asking “where are the big bowls” and “does this go on a plastic or silver tray”, often followed by “who’s tall enough to reach _______”. Nevertheless, we were so busy getting tables arranged, finding the right tablecloths, finding someone to get the sound system going, and handling many other details, that the first person who could answer did answer and we moved on.
Then the sandwiches arrived. Ah yes, the sandwiches. That was the one small detail. We had ordered sandwiches for 50 thinking that often several people do not take a sandwich and the committee eats last so if we run short on anything we will be the ones who do without something. On Sunday the sandwiches were picked up, four trays came into the kitchen, and then the fun started.
Should we put them at the beginning of the line, or after the salads and side dishes? Maybe everyone would fill up on other food and not take a sandwich. Should we have service on just one side of the table or both sides, which is faster. One committee member suggested that we serve the sandwiches to be sure guests took only one sandwich since each was half of a pretzel roll. But, if we did that, the person would be in the way of the people going on both sides of the table. We worked that out and asked the MC to tell our guests when she called them to eat that they would be served one sandwich. Remember, there are 9 of us scurrying around in the kitchen while all of this is going on.
What about the condiments and lettuce/tomato/pickles/onion tray that came with the sandwiches? Adding those items can hold up the line, so they should be at the end where it is easier for people to crowd around the table. We worked that out also.
In the middle of this, having already decided who would stand at the table and, with properly gloved hand, serve the sandwiches so that everyone could get one, the person who had ordered the sandwiches asked why we were being so careful since we had almost 100 sandwiches. 100? Well, almost. Each tray held 24 and there were 4 trays. What???? OK. We thought there were just 50 sandwiches, not food for 50. Ahh, a glitch in information. No problem then. On to plan B, or C, or or was it even D? If we had that many sandwiches, then we would just put them out and there would be plenty for everyone and we didn’t need to worry about not enough sandwiches.
There was just enough time to take a deep breath when one of the committee took the cover off a tray and counted the sandwiches. There were to be 24 to a tray but there weren’t 24. There were just 16. What? OK. Breathe again. We had 64 sandwiches, not 96. That would still be enough. Have the MC tell guests that they would get just 1 sandwich and if there were sandwiches left after everyone was served then they could come back for seconds. Then the gal who had ordered and picked up the sandwiches called the place where the sandwiches had been prepared. There was an exchange – not angry, but definitely “where is the rest of the food?” Luckily it was just a couple of miles away. She hopped into her car and headed out. The MC called everyone together, gave the 1 sandwich per person speech, and the buffet line started. Most people had eaten by the time the remaining sandwiches arrived but when they were put out, hungry hands quickly came to the table.
Finger pointing? NO. Not with this group, which is one of the reasons I enjoy being on the committee. Stuff happens. It happens even after several phone calls, written confirmations, and double checking. You just figure out how to keep things moving, smile, retreat to the kitchen and figure out how to make things work.
In the end the lunch was a success as was the speaker. We cleaned up. We sent leftovers home, and there may have been even a sandwich or two, but not too many more, left over. Up until now it was an insider secret. Only the committee and helping friends knew how crazy it got. You won’t tell, will you?
Tell me your story? I know we cannot be the only ones who have dealt with situations like this.
Every Day Is A Good Day VJ