Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Step by Step

Sometimes there seems so much to do that making lists (then sticking to them) is the only way to cope. Wnen it came to organising and cooking and preparing food for a buffet for 140 people, which I did for a society for many years, believe me I needed to make lists of lists. This would start with what a few members could and hopefully would provide and very gratefully received I can tell you, followed by lists relating to my part of the action: filling the gaps. As the savoury spread was virtually all gaps, this meant providing rather a lot. Enough to say it wasn't a finger buffet, but a full blown sit-down meal. Although the food was laid out on a help-yourself basis, several hot dishes were often provided: curry, stir-fry, chill con carne, jacket potatoes etc.

Sounds daunting, but the easiest way was for me is to make lists. Lists to do with the food that needed to be bought, subdivided into what could be bought ahead of time and what needed to be fresh. Lists to do with advance preparation, again subdivided into what would freeze and what could be done two or three days ahead. Lists for what should be done the day before, and what needed to be prepared and cooked on the day of the buffet. What could be prepared at home and what could be left to deal with once I had to go the venue kitchen. Other list of non-foods needed: 'silver' platters, serving spoons, knives...
As making lists is a sit-down activity, this is not so labour-intensive as it sounds. But next comes the harder bit - working through each , one at a time. The secret is, when it comes to the stand-up work - mainly the food preparation and cooking, (believe me I manage to sit down through a lot of that as well), the best way is to concentrate only on the job in hand, never thinking about what needs to be done next until it is time to do so. Buffet for hundreds, or a meal for two, this tip WORKS!

Which leads me to what I really wanted to say today. Plan your Xmas shopping - make a list of what you can buy in advance, to lessen the load nearer the day. Cans of lager, bottles of lemonade, wines and spirits if you are that way inclined. Buy enough non-foods to keep you going for weeks: loo rolls, kitchen paper, kitchen foil, washing-up liquid, washing powder, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, paper hankies (we use boxes of tissues which are much cheaper and just as good), tea lights, candles and matches to light them. Don't forget the paracetamol, plus extra strength flu medication just in case, sticking plasters in case you cut yourself. Bottles of disinfectant or bleach.
Then, the week before Xmas, all you need to concentrate on is the food, but make sure you have listed everything. But if something major has been omitted, what the heck - just improvise!
Don't worry about the cost of it all. What cost? Stick with me and you'll end up quids in.