In addition to being an aspiring cookbook author, a very occasional caterer, and having more than a passing interest in Medieval food, I'm also one of three people that runs the kitchen at an annual metaphysical festival called PUF. It's a marathon of fun and hard work where we feed around 400 people three meals a day for four days, and our entire staff is made of volunteers.
One year, I ran the kitchen by myself. Because I had some time in the early morning hours, I decided to make breakfast for our band of VIP authors, some of whom have become very good friends over the years. They were stunned -- apparently, sometimes they're just damn lucky to get something that resembles food, but I digress.
I've made the VIPs (at PUF, it's a word, not three letters) their breakfasts and delivered it to their communal cabin for several years now. They have actually insisted that I continue to do so until the end of time, or they'll mutiny. Seriously.
Here' a blog that M.R. Sellars, paranormal horror/dark fantasy author, fellow foodie, and very good friend, wrote about it several months ago.
Here's a link to this page on his blog: http://mrsellars.com/mrblog/?p=2652
Food, Glorious Food. . . . . . . THE PUF REPORT: Part 4 of 5
Some of you may have heard me mention that I often travel with an MRE in my luggage. An MRE being: Meal, Ready to Eat. Yeah, cooked to death, preservative ridden, irradiated, vacuum packed, shelf stable for 99 years, food sort of stuff. The very same scientifically balanced glop they feed our men and women in uniform. Some MRE’s are perfectly edible. Not 5 star dining, mind you, but edible nonetheless. Others are oddly horrible mystery foodstuff that doesn’t even vaguely resemble the description on the outside of the watertight packaging. But, you can still choke it down, and it is scientifically proven that you can not only live on it, but it isn’t likely to kill you either.
Those of you who have never heard me wax prophetic about MRE’s are probably wondering why I would bother carrying such in my luggage. Well, you see, it’s like this – When you get booked in at a festival, you never know what you’re going to get in the way of eats.
Yeah. I know it seems like a no-brainer, especially since it says right there in my contract that you have to feed me. However, I have been flown in to far away cities, picked up and hauled out to the middle of nowhere for a fest, only to have the organizers say, “What? You didn’t bring your own food?”
Of course, those are few and far between. Still, they have happened. Right there with them are the fests where they feed toddler portions to grown adults because they don’t know how to plan meals. Three chicken nuggets and 5 french fries does not a meal make for a 47 year old fat guy like myself.
However, I think what may be worse, in fact I know it’s worse – and unfortunately these happen way too often – are the festivals where they serve you something virtually inedible. For instance:
I have been served raw eggs. Yes raw eggs. Not runny, not overeasy, not sunny side up. R… A… W… Raw.
I have been served spoiled pork chops. Spoiled as in gone bad folks. Salmonella and all that good stuff.
Rancid, rotting potatoes. I mean, come on… If I wanted my potatoes that far gone, I’d buy a bottle of Vodka, okay?
Unidentifiable mixtures of who knows what, cooked so far beyond tastelessness that they have moved into the direction of making you gag, so that even Oliver Twist wouldn’t ask for seconds.
And, in one instance, my wife and daughter (along with several other attendees) contracted food poisoning at a festival. Severe enough that paramedics were involved.
But, fortunately, there are other fests. We’ll call them, those fests. They are the festivals and conventions that live on the other end of the spectrum. They feed you so well that the best restaurant in the city can’t hold a candle to them. There are some stores that fall into this category as well, such as Violet Flame Gifts. We will call them, those stores… But, right now, we are talking about fests…
And, PUF is one of those fests…
You see, at PUF, I have my Rachel. Some of you may even have read about my Rachel in one of my novels, namely Blood Moon. She was the character Ailleagan.
Now, the thing is my Rachel is in Ally-bammer, and she’s actually Doug’s Rachel. Doug is wayyyyy bigger’n me. Doug could break me in half with his little finger. Fortunately, however, Doug likes me (the feeling is mutual) and he lets me borrow Rachel.
No… Not for that you dirty minded monkeys... EK would kill me and stuff. In fact, I’m not sure if she’d kill me first, or just stomp on my corpse after Doug killed me, but the effect would pretty much be the same. I’d be all corpsified and gross.
You see, what Doug actually does is he loans Rachel to the VIP’s at PUF. That is to say, he and Rachel are at PUF every year, working their tails off. But, more specifically, Rachel is the one and only, lifetime designated, Chef to the guest authors. Sometimes Rachel runs the whole kitchen, sometimes not. But, you can always find her there. And moreover, she ALWAYS cooks breakfast and various other goodies for the VIP’s.
Take for instance this year. We arrived to find the following resting on the table of the common room in the cabin -
Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cookies
Some kind of pizza meatball things (I want MORE of these!)
These were just a bit of comfort food on which we could nosh if the mood struck.
Now, I would be horribly remiss if I didn’t mention something else we found. This, however, was from our good friend Tracy -
And, not only was it Carrot Cake, it was probably the best freakin’ carrot cake I have ever put in my mouth (Sorry, Mom)… The only problem with it was that it was so big we couldn’t finish it. But, let me tell you, I had carrot cake every day, and I even brought a piece home with me.
Now, getting back to Rachel… Here’s the thing… I’ll put our Rachel up against Rachel Ray any day of the week. Our Rachel will whoop her ass, I’m telling you. Not only can she out cook her, blindfolded and with both hands tied behind her back, she’s really cool too. None of that ridiculously inflated perkiness. Just regular perkiness. So, if the FoodNetwork wants to set up a “cook off death match”, we’re in.
Anywho, of all the festivals where I have been, even the fests that feed you well, PUF and Rachel, feed us like you wouldn’t believe – Apple Cream Cheese “Burritos” with Caramel Sauce, Fresh Cinnamon Rolls, Chorizo Frittata, Little Canadian Bacon Cuplike Thingies with Eggs, Cuban Pork Breakfast Sandwiches… And I could go on… And on… And on…
And, believe me, I am not even scratching the surface of the food that Rachel cooks for us, much less that of the communal feast which has a spread that goes on forever, and variety like you wouldn’t believe (now that the previously mentioned Lasagna Law is in force. See PUF REPORT Part 2 of 5 – Where’s Kat?) And, if that weren’t enough, this year an attendee made Kahlua cake especially for the VIP’s as well… Not just one Kahlua cake, mind you, but two – one of them was diatetic so that two of the VIP’s who are diabetic could enjoy it as well.
Yes… We eat very well… Awww, hell, we eat like friggin’ royalty. And, not only do we enjoy it, we appreciate it as well. If nothing else we know PUF will keep us fed and happy.
However… There was a darkness over our food experience this year. More specifically, over my personal food experience. You see, every year my Rachel makes for me – specifically for me – something called the Sacred Pie. It was mentioned in Blood Moon as well. It is this amazing melange of sausage, apples, cheese, and maple syrup, baked into a wonderful crust… and… wellbtthpppt… nmbbttpp…
Okay… Sorry about that. I was starting to drool… Anyway, back to the issue at hand. Rachel knows that I will actually hoard Sacred Pie. Often times she will make two. One for the cabin and one for me to take home. She does this because she is well aware that I will parcel out the second pie and have a slice for my lunch every day for the week following PUF.
I love my Rachel…
But, I’m supposed to be addressing the issue, so here it is. There was no pie this year. Rachel, with much sadness and trepidation, followed by disbelief and anger, informed me that someone had stolen the sausage from the refrigerator in the kitchen. Sausage she had purchased specifically for the purpose of making the Sacred Pie.
Vanished… Gone… Absconded with, and all that… Thou shalt not steal… Ill gotten sausage… Hot… Looking for a ground pork fence…
I was sad. I cried. I fell down on the floor and bawled like a baby.
I was absolutely devastated…
In fact, my reaction was so startling that EK experienced an uncharacteristic fit of compassion. Yeah, I know… Miraculous, eh? Of course, I think it is tempered by the fact that she still gets to be evil You see, not only did she comfort me, she promised to find and horribly torture for an extended period of time whoever was responsible for thieving the ground up pig leavin’s. Rachel, being Rachel, with a wicked gleam in her eye, offered to help EK with this task.
So what it comes down to is this – There’s a pork thief out there somewhere who is on the run. I’m not sure who it is, but I’ll be looking hard at anyone with grease stains on their shirt and a satisfied look in their eyes. Rest assured if I ever do catch up to this particular scum-sucking, lily-livered, low down wretched cur of a sausage stealer, there’ll be hell to pay.
And, I know for a fact it’ll be hell, because I’m just turnin’ ‘em right on over to Rachel and EK, and they are a hell of a lot meaner than me… Not only that, Rachel has knives, grinders, and other scary kitchen utensils (shudder).
Ya’know… Now that I think about it, I might just have to skip the pie next year unless I provide the sausage myself…
More to come…