Hello Darlings, LaDiva here.
Yesterday I had the ultimate cooking demo. It was for a FAB fundraising group. This was their regional conference and they hired me to be the comic relief. Of course, I was NOT going to disappoint so I got two LaDiva dancers to come along and the Incredible Mr. Fitz.
Since it is nigh on Mother’s Day, I decided to make some dishes someone could use to avoid the restaurant scene. Mom’s day is the WORST day of the year in a restaurant.
The demo has three recipes: Almost Fatless Flapjacks [brunch], Insta’ Party Bean Dip [cocktail appetizers] and Vital Vanilla Creme [dessert]. I would tell the group to fill in the dinner course with take out.
The dancers were new to the LaDiva gig, but they were smart and enthusiastic. The day before I filled 75 goodie bags with a business card, LaDiva button, 1/4 page advertisement about my book with blurbs of the reviews by authors, Victoria Moran, Dr. Neal Barnard and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist, Lenny Kaye as well as 2 ginger snap cookies I had made that morning to give it a ‘homemade’ touch. These were sealed with a LaDiva sticker thanking the receiver for coming to the demo.
All of the equipment was labeled with the recipe for which it was needed – spatulas, skillet, 2 food processors – down to the smallest detail. All the ingredients were measured out into containers also labeled as to which recipe needed them – 2 types of flour, baking soda, flax meal, black beans, salsa, silken tofu, vanilla extract, sugar, 2 different containers for salt used in 2 different recipes, etc. You name it, it was labeled and coordinated. Everything that could be packed was packed the night before. I showed the dancers the food and the equipment and explained the recipe codes when they gathered at my house. They would only have to put their recipe’s components on the demo table. I had three crew people and three recipes. Easy-peasy.
Earlier in the week, my music was sent to the fundraiser AV staff along with my photo for the screen which would be behind me. I wrote when the music would be used for the program.
While at my house, the dancers learned the dance and how to throw leis at the crowd, got their costumes and we left. We got to the venue at 1:38pm for a 2:30 show. All we had to do was meet the AV guy and set up the demo table. My makeup was on and I just needed 5 minutes to get ready. My male dancer was already dressed and the female would take about 5 minutes.
We ran through the sequence of intro, music, dancers, my entrance and exit with the AV guy – Arnold. Arnold showed me where he had my music cued and said that he was excited to see the cooking demo. The introducer, Mr. Introducer, was charming. I even had a separate room across the hall from the event in which to change. I told the crew to start setting up and I left to set up the dressing table.
That’s when it hit me. Where was the food? That’s right. In packing the car, we had taken everything from the kitchen, but by-passed the refrigerator on the back porch where the ingredients were twiddling their thumbs ready to go.
Panic set in for about 10 seconds. “Mr. Fitz, what time is it?”
We had 30 minutes to get food. Could I buy it? Where was a store? Okay, there were no samples going out so could I get food that LOOKED like our ingredients?
I told Mr. Fitz to set up the equipment table and I would think of something. I went out to the hallway to see if anyone could tell me how close a grocery store was. Then, I saw a hotel server and stopped her in her tracks.
“Hi, my name is LaDiva Dietitian. I have a food demo in 25 minutes and I have no food. Do you have any beans, like black beans on your menu?”
“Wow, no food?”
“No. But maybe you have something in your kitchen.”
“Okay, come on in the kitchen.” She wasn’t sure what to do with me, but whatever I needed was not in the hallway.
She introduced me to a manager, “This woman needs some help.”
“I’m an event manager, how can I help you.”
“I have a cooking demo and I forgot all the food.”
“Well, I’m sure we can help somehow. I can set up a meeting with our chef and we can see if we can sort anything out.” She was very nice and manager-y and I truly appreciated her intent, but was not the conversation I needed.
“Um, I have this cooking demo in 25 minutes, so I don’t really have time to set up meetings.”
Just then, Jared the Wonderful, passed by. “Jared, could you help this person? She has a cooking demo and need some things from the kitchen.”
Jared is a chef that should be from a surfer community. He was very laid back and said,”Yeah.” I began to tell him my plight. He not only said yes to having legumes, he opened a #10 can – one of those big, industrial-sized suckers for me. Then, he asked the prep cooks about leftover salsa. Insta’ Party Bean Dip – Done!
Next we had to figure out the pancakes. He had a pancake mix that we could put in bowls to look like flour, then some small ramekins with salt, salt to represent sugar, high protein gluten flour to represent flax meal, an actual small amount of vanilla extract, an empty bowl to be my “magic” bowl with all other ingredients that I needed, but was for the moment forgetting. Now, silken tofu? He was at a loss.
I said, “Do you have any vanilla pudding?” Close enough for jazz.
I, quickly, amassed my goodies on to a full sheet tray and walked into the event ballroom. Except, that I didn’t know how to get out of the kitchen. Oh, and, the tray was astonishingly heavy. I finally found a door to the hallway, but it had a door handle that had to be turned. Balancing the tray on one knee, I steadied it with one hand and used the other to turn the handle. I flung it open about 10 inches, turned my foot into the open space and slammed the door into my foot in to keep it open. I put my knee holding the tray down. Turning my torso towards the door, I used my other foot to open it enough to get my leg through. My rear end bumped it wide enough to get the tray through.
The Incredible Mr. Fitz had the table set up and figured out how I could use the extension cord for all three electric pieces of equipment. Great! This was going to move right along.
I grabbed the female dancer and told her to come with me to get dressed. We whipped ourselves into shape and I sent her to get my mic and tell Mr. Fitz we were ready to ROCK!!
She returned with the mic pack and left to get ready for the music cue. We bad!
That’s when we found that he speaker who was before the food demo decided to give the War and Peace version of his slide show about water. Now, I like water as much as the next person, but at 2:30 I had risen above all challenges and was prepped for launch. The dancers had the plastic leis on their arms, wigs on, but no where to go.
So, I stood in the hallway learning about – and I do appreciate what this guy does – water filtration in third world countries via watching through a crack between the double doors. For 20 minutes. Having no idea when he would run out of slides of various world leaders exonerating his program and the wonderful things it did for their nations. Oh, but wait, there is another president. And another prime minister. And this is how much cash the group, for whom I was being paid, could raise for this very useful filtration project.
I should have been interested. I should have thought, “How amazing that this project is doing so much good in the world.” But I kept thinking, “Dude, I have one crew member who has to leave at 3pm for another gig, and two people who know nothing about breaking down a cooking demo and the skillet behind you is getting hotter by the second even though it is on medium HEAT. I hope it doesn’t start smoking.”
Finally, Mr. Filtration realized what Tolstoy did, that even War and Peace had to end. Cue the applause. It is now 3pm.
Mr. Introduction takes the stage. I can’t really hear what he’s saying, but I know it is about me. The dancers are by the doors ready to start as soon as Arnold hits music. Mr. Introduction finishes, AND… nothing happens. Finally, through some freak of nature, Arnold starts the music. The dancers start throwing leis at the folks at the tables and encouraging them to get up and dance. The crowd thinks this should be an after lunch polite chat. Zumba was at 1pm.
Then, I come in with more energy than the Sun and get folks on their feet. YAY! We all swim and back stroke and then hold our noses and pretend to go underwater.
“That’s great everybody. Let’s get started.” All of us applaud ourselves to the music playing. The crowd begins to sit. And the music keeps going. I finally look at Arnold and give him the international-“Cut the music”-hand-slicing-across-the-throat-sign. The music stops.
I decide to be honest with the folks about the lack of demonstration ingredients and they laugh. This is a good sign.
“How many of you have worked in a restaurant?” A few hands go up. “What is the worst day to work at a restaurant?” One woman pipes up, Mother’s day. Another good sign.
So, I start into my spiel hoping I won’t forget anything really pertinent because I don’t have the recipes with me. I use the ingredients to remind me what goes into what, but those ingredients are at home in the back porch refrigerator. Snickering at me.
The pancake batter is going swimmingly. People are giggling when I use the same white powder for flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. They are really listening when I am describing the need of fiber in the diet and how it works with diabetes.
Everyone smiles or laughs each time I sing out “I want to keep My Girl-ish Fig-ure!”
Then, poof, I have ready-made batter to pour in the skillet, [mixed up by Jared the Wonderful, I told you he was wonderful], from a little pitcher. The skillet which I turn off because it starts to smoke. Then, I realize I have no oil for the skillet and the batter I have just poured onto the skillet is going to stick like crazy.
I blather on about how you can decrease the sugar on pancakes by mashing fresh fruit with a little bit of maple syrup. This compensates for the inevitable berries that are over-ripe or just not good tasting. Everyone plays along with me when I ask them to put on their “pretend hats” and see the blackberries in this empty plastic bowl. Then, I begin using a real potato masher to mash imaginary berries. I get so caught up in pretend-land, that when I am done talking about the berries and mashing them, I tap the masher on the side of the bowl as if there were berries stuck to it. No one noticed. Yay team.
Then, I have to get the pancake off the skillet. Comedy ensues, but I manage to wrestle it on to a plate.
Next is the bean dip, easy because I have bean and salsa. Slide right through the information about legumes and blood sugar stability. And on to Vanilla Creme.
This is really going well. I finish the vanilla creme with miming smooshing a strawberry in the creme and eating it.
I give a shout out to the LaDiva Dancers. I give a shout out to the Incredible Mr. Fitz. I turn to Arnold. “Hit it, Arnold.”
Arnold is nowhere to be seen. In fact, there is NO ONE at the sound board.
Do this with me. Let your jaw drop and leave your mouth open for 10 seconds. While your mouth is attracting flies, think about the fact that you have no idea on how to get off this stage. You don’t have a pithy tag line. You don’t have anyone else to thank. You can’t grab anything to eat or hand out as you leave. You have just blown the momentum of the entire demo.
Close your mouth and move on. “Wow, so thank you so much for coming to this. Ta-ta, Darlings.” Grab your boa and shake it around your shoulders viciously as you leave the stage and head for the door.
Oh, you forgot to tell everyone to get goodie bags as they leave.
Now it is time for a martini or a hot bath or 75 stabs from LaDiva buttons followed by 150 cookies. Screw your girl-ish figure.