The Politics of Catering – Part One

This is the part I like to refer to as “What the hell have I gotten myself into?!?!?!”

In the past couple weeks I have been volunteering – aka supporting my better half – in the municipal electoral campaign for M. Karim Boulos as City Councilor for the district of Peter-McGill. In the midst of helping with translations, doing door to door drop offs of reusable shopping bags for a “plastic bag free Montreal” and simply lending a hand here and there, the discussion of the Campaign Launch event came up. On a whim, the words “I’ll cater your event for you!” slipped off my tongue before my brain realized the implications of what I said. 

Before I know it my inner planner kicks in to high gear and I’m sending out menu items for a cold cocktail buffet. With the menu feedback I am also given the following parameters: there will anywhere between 60 to 100 people attending, the cocktail is this upcoming Thursday at 6pm, less than 6 days away, and there is no available budget. At this point, the inner planner slips into near-panic mode. I have never ever performed anything even close to this kind of reception. I’ve had prepared many 5 course dinner parties for 10 or more people, I have prepared eggs Benedict for more than 15 people for Jon’s birthday, but this kind of magnitude was way beyond my experience. I had no idea how much to prepare, how many dishes to present or how to manage with zero budget. 

I decided to set a menu with items I was comfortable with and had previously prepared on more than one occasion. Of course, my creative side likes to show its colours in these types of situations so I came up with a different take on the fool-proof and oh-so-boring crudités platter and ranch dip: julienned veggies wrapped in nori served with a soy sesame dipping sauce – aka. Japanese Crudités Bundles. 

Hell bent on getting this accomplished properly, I armed myself with my menu, ingredient list, shopping bags and headed to the market for my first round of shopping. Cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers (red and yellow), hot peppers, lemons, parsley, cilantro, scallions, garlic, 3 kg of Kefta meat = $45. Next stop is the dollar store for supplies. Napkins, toothpicks, tongs, plastic serving platters = $11.85. Final stop is the grocery store to pick up the menu’s staples. Eggs, potatoes, onions, chorizo, bavette (or flank steak), nori, sesame oil, soy sauce, black olives, anchovy paste, olive oil = $72.37. 

Total cost so far is $129.22. Whoohoo! Mission one accomplished! I must keep reminding myself that I am not feeding a meal to these people, simply providing a little something to nibble on while they mingle, and assuming only 60 people show up then $2.15 a head is not a bad deal! 

In any case, after the food prep frenzy I will have a better idea of what individual portions will look like. 

Here is the final menu that will be featured at Karim Boulos’ Campaign Launch event, this Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Tortilla Española

(eggs, potatoes, chorizo, onions, paprika, olive oil, salt and pepper)

 Kefta Meatballs / Roasted Red Peppers

(Halal Kefta meat / red bell pepper, tomato, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper)

 Grilled Bavette / Chimichurri

(beef / parsley, cilantro, hot peppers, garlic, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper)

Japanese Crudité Bundles / Soy Sesame

(nori, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, scallions / soy, sesame oil, hot peppers, sesame seeds)

Black Olive Tapenade / Flat Bread

(black olives, anchovy paste, garlic, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper / courtesy of Arouch)

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