Don’t shop on Thanksgiving (PowerPoint presentation)

Pretty much says it all. Let’s be thankful this Thanksgiving, and always.

dont-shop-on-thanksgiving-powerpoint-2013-pps

(Note: will also play on LibreOffice.)

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How to organize a church fundraiser dinner

This checklist/suggestion list is designed to help organize the recurring church fundraiser dinner or supper. It can be adapted to one-time functions or other nonprofit fundraiser meals, such as relief dinners at the community house.

Before you begin

Consult three outsiders. They are:

  • The church’s legal counsel
  • The insurance agent
  • The health inspector (if any deep frying equipment will be involved, consider including the fire marshall)

It is better to welcome these screeners (and maybe have them return as guests) than to make them work on their day off cleaning up your mistakes. They should have pamphlets or checklists explaining your needs and local ordinance.

If you need more insurance, obtain it. If your status is in doubt, clarify it. If you need more sinks (one for hand-washing, one for preparing food, one for dishwashing and disposing of used food, and so forth), install them, or hold your event at another location. After all, if your first dinners are successful, you will need the extra space and equipment anyway.

Be considerate of your neighbor churches (particularly if their event is older than yours), and don’t hold your event on the same day. Many customers travel a circuit of dinners and would give both of you a chance if your events are on different days.

Space: kitchen design

How many workers will you need to be in the kitchen at one time? Plan for two or three more people than you expect you will need. They can step in when your early workers need to take a break.

Does your kitchen have enough sinks? Do any sinks have garbage disposals? If you have a dishwasher, does it drain into the same sink as the one with the disposal? It is helpful to have one more sink than you think you need.

Will you need institutional-sized refrigerators and oven/stoves? Should either have clear doors for easy view or solid doors for insulating properties? Can you get both?

Do you have the freezer space to purchase perishables when they are on sale?

If you have a microwave oven, is it out of the way of traffic flow? This is one day you will not be using it, except to heat leftovers for your workers.

Do you need an institutional dishwasher? If yes, both the men’s auxiliary and the women’s auxiliary should help pick out the model. In many churches the men do the dishes, so it’s okay to pick out a really cool gadget if it’s cost-efficient and easy to use.

Do you have enough electrical outlets (without overloading)?

Do you have enough cabinet space? Enough counter space? Would an island fit in your kitchen? Do your current options stand up to greasy fingers and spills, or do they need a new coat or to be reclad?

Is your flooring in reasonably good condition? If workers might slip or trip, what must be done to secure the flooring? Should you borrow or temporarily lay down floor mats for kitchen workers who will be on their feet all day? What equipment will you need to clean the floor after the event

Will you need institutional-styled tray towers? How many trays might you need on one frame? Fixed frame or rollers?

Where will dirty dishes go? Will they sit in a sink or on a counter until they can be washed or loaded into the machine? Will flatware go on this counter/in this sink, or will they have a separate soaking pan? Could you benefit from a stainless steel counter (slightly sloped toward the sink to direct spills)? If you choose this, should other counters and islands match?

Where is the barrier between your kitchen and the dining area, and what kind is it? Is it a half-door with a shelf? Two half doors (one for outgoing “ready” dishes and one for incoming dirty dishes)? Or do you have a full counter with a rolling shutter? If you have neither, where will kitchen workers place “ready” bowls and platters as they wait for dining room workers to come fetch them? Do not assume you will be able to fill a bowl and hand it off immediately. Also, if you have no barrier, consider other ways to keep small children and carryout customers from accidentally walking into the path of the kitchen staff.

Is the kitchen sufficiently well-ventilated that the heat, moisture, and aromas will not be unpleasant for your customers in the other room? Is there sufficient ventilation to protect your workers? They may be in that kitchen for twelve hours that day.

Space: dining room layout

How many customers do you plan to serve at one time? Do you have enough tables and chairs in good condition to serve that number?

Do you own your tables and chairs? Will you rent?

Will you choose padded chairs for comfort or metal chairs for compact storage and easy maintenance? Would your metal chairs allow for tied-on seat cushions that can go into the washing machine?

How will your arrange equipment for clear aisles, ideal traffic flow and fewest collisions?

Are you remodeling your fellowship hall before you hold your fundraiser? Are you considering built-in tables and benches that slide up to become the wall? Advantages: easy to keep clean, uniform, saves space, and is very durable. Disadvantages: can have an institutional feel; benches can be hard for individuals with walkers, wheelchairs, strollers, or miniskirts to negotiate.

Is the flooring in good condition? Will you need a carpet shampoo machine or a power waxer to clean it after the event?

Where will you place the coffee urns? The high chairs? The garbage bins?

Will you need electrical outlets for hot boxes, lighting, coffee urns, etc.? Do you have enough outlets? Will extension cords be fastened along the wall, or might people trip over them?

Is there pleasing light and sufficient ventilation? Will you need battery backup lights if the power goes out?

Is there sufficient distance or barrier between the dining area and the entry area that paid customers will not be mistaken for new arrivals (and asked to pay again)?

Space: the entry area

Where will customers go to purchase their tickets?

Where will they present the tickets for dining room entry?

Where may they leave coats, wet umbrellas, etc.?

What is your policy on unattended coats, purses, wallets, etc.? Will one of your staff be responsible for them, or are customers requested to keep these things on their persons?

Can customers easily locate the restrooms? Are the restrooms cleaned and well-stocked? Can they accommodate the number of customers who will use them? Which worker will be responsible for restroom emergencies? (This person should not handle food.)

Where do customers wait if the dining room is filled?

If the wait will be more than a few minutes, what will customers be doing? (Suggestion: bring in a musical individual or group to lead sing-alongs. Ask your local senior center or nursing home for recommendations for family-friendly entertainers. Of course you will compensate the performers; whether with a free meal or other recompense should be agreed upon in advance.)

If your fundraiser is intended to earn money for a commendable cause, you may post photos and information … within limits. Will your customers run a gauntlet to get to the food or to the exit? (Consider the Jewish voter who protested when his polling place was moved to inside a church. Said he almost felt like he had to genuflect to get to the polls.) Some missions make the poor “sing for their supper” by listening to preaching before they get the food. Paying customers will not tolerate this treatment. Be happy to answer questions about the building expansion, trip to another country, or whatever it may be. But don’t corner people.

(Followup: spend the money as you told people you would spend it. They remember and they will ask. Most people don’t mind a fundraiser to raise money to pay bills, but never lie to them to get it. If you need more money, host a second fundraiser.)

Consider posting a decorative menu on the entry doors so that customers on restricted diets will know their options before they commit to a dinner ticket.

Space: parking

Is your parking lot in reasonably good condition? (Prevents trip & falls.) Are the lines visible? Is handicapped parking adequate? Will snow or ice removal be an issue? Will wet leaves or grass be an issue? They can be as slippery as ice.

Are entrances and exits visible and accessible? If you prefer your customers to exit through a lane they would not normally notice, but which you think is safer (say, leads to a traffic device), decide in advance how to steer customers in that direction. Arrows, signs, or flaggers are preferable to physically blocking the drive. (An ambulance or fire truck might need that opening.)

Take a tip from garage-sale experts: put streamers or balloons on your roadside signage on Fundraiser Day. The bright colors wake up drivers on autopilot.

Will parking be adequate for the customers you expect? At what rate can you reasonably expect customer turnover? If customers linger over their food, will this affect available parking?

If parking is limited, should workers park somewhere else?

If you plan to offer carryout, do you wish to designate parking? Since turnover will be high for carryout customers, consider spacing them together, farther from the door. Remember that the parking lot will be filled with parents with strollers and seniors with walkers, none of whom want to dodge an endless procession of cars. If you can’t move the cars, can you move the pedestrian entrance?

If your fundraiser is a barbecue, a “battered fish fry,” or another deep-fry held outside, keep the on-duty cooks and equipment away from both the buildings and the cars. Consider digging, bricking, or paving a fire pit or patio out on the lawn. An open tent (canopy, no walls) can keep the cooks safe if it rains. (Rain in a turkey fryer is an explosive combination.)

Keep outdoor diners away from both cars and the cooks. Another open tent can help, if it is not possible for diners to take their meals indoors.

Equipment: the kitchen

Stainless steel oven pans are typical. You can experiment with other options if you can find them that large.

Will you need a “gravy slow cooker” (an electric gravy warming pot)?

Do your counters need table pads (hot pads)? If so, are they also resistant to spills?

Do you have enough oven mitts? Buy several pairs more than you think you will need. If one pair gets gravy on it, you can use a fresh pair.

Do you have enough food-handling plastic gloves? Do not use latex gloves. Not only are some customers allergic to latex, surgical gloves just feel slimy.

Choose ergonomic, easy-grip utensils. Cook’s Country and its sister site America’s Test Kitchen have equipment reviews.

Equipment: the dining room

For centerpieces, flowers are an obvious choice. Consider flowers or greens that are least likely to provoke allergies. For an unusual effect consider a bowl of water lilies.

Other options include small arts & crafts such as decorative birdhouses or, alternately, origami.

Will you want tablecloths? If yes, will you use side clips or another method to stop them from sliding? (Assume that someone will tuck the tablecloth into his shirt. Anchor the edges to prevent that.)

Will you want both placements and tablecloths? Placemats are strongly preferred. If your tables are ugly, you can always add tablecloths.

Will you want paper serviettes or cloth? Cloth needn’t be fancy, just serviceable. No paper towels, please. (Paper towels are for spills, not the spillers. For some reason, nice paper placemats are acceptable, though.)

Do you have enough matched dishes? Many churches choose Corelle®. Because it is so thin, it stores well and fits into the dishwasher well. Broken dishes are fairly easy to replace, and the company sells matching family-sized bowls, platters, coffee cups, butter dishes, gravy boats, creamers, and salt and pepper shakers.

Flatware need not match perfectly, but it should match reasonably. Don’t make people eat chicken with a shrimp fork; don’t make them stir their coffee with a soup spoon; no wood-handled forks with all-metal spoons. Any utensil that looks dirty, ugly, or has scars from the garbage disposal must not go out to the customers.

Plastic utensils and paper plates are not for the indoor fundraiser. The gravy and butter soak into the plate and turn it into unappetizing mush. Plastic plates should not get past the bake sale, at best. (If a picnic is rained out and the customers come indoors, then it’s okay.) A fish fry is a little more casual, but real dishes are still helpful if you can reuse them later.

Some churches use plastic cups to cut down on the dishwashing, but if you have to pay for recycling or don’t have recycling, your garbage bills cancel out the time and expense of washing glasses. Besides, people expect to see sodapop when they see plastic, and you won’t be serving it.

Will your customers walk to the coffee urn? Or will your wait staff pour the coffee into smaller spill-proof decanters and bring them to the table? Hot liquids wandering the room should be minimized as much as possible.

Will your customers carry their full plates to their seats, or will your staff bring food to the tables?

For buffet settings you will need a designated table (or line of tables) with the largest pans. Stainless steel will not bend under the weight of food like aluminum trays. Consider disposable pans only if they can be placed on a sturdy and full base (not just the rims or corners). Will you want the pans to stay heated? Know the potential hazards of open flame on the table.

You may need institutional serving trays as food is conveyed to the table. Workers should be gracious in approaching customers with walkers, or who simply have too full a plate and no hands to carry a beverage, flatware, or squirming toddler. Offer to help them.

For family style dining you will need bowls, platters, etc. for every table (where one table consists of four to six customers). Also, you will need serving forks and spoons. Do not put carving knives on the table; carve the meat in the kitchen.

Will your customers carry their used dishes to a drop-off location, or will your staff bus the tables? Bussers will need bus tubs. The tubs should be strong, deep, and leak-proof. Choose tubs with either all-around or easy-grip handles.

What type of carryout containers will you purchase? Will you need more than one size or function? (Example: flat plate, gravy or pudding cup, etc.) Will they be used primarily for leftovers or for full meals? Sometimes you should splurge for the good paper like Chinet® or equivalent. Styrofoam and plastic can melt or have a ski-ramp effect on slippery food. Also, it’s not always recycled. Having said that, since you’ll purchase styrofoam anyway, get the right size.

Now that you know much more equipment you will need, do you still have enough storage space?

Who are your customers?

Do you anticipate young professionals? Families with small children? Will you need to set your hours and/or buy equipment (such as sturdy high chairs) to make their dining experience easier?

One group you can expect to see is seniors, and a lot of them. Mary Pipher, author of “Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders” has much to say about food and culture (particularly in chapter three). For customers who remember the hardship of the Great Depression, an all-you-can-eat meal with good friends is rightly seen as an enjoyable evening—something a lot of us have forgotten—and frankly, it’s up to you to ruin it for them. (That is, if they don’t come back, you should consider what you are doing wrong.)

Although one can’t generalize, you may find that seniors plan their communal dining weeks in advance. If your food is tasty and reasonably priced (and you include some early-bird hours), you may become a stop on their circuit.

By now you will have decided whether you want to offer buffet dining or hostess seating (sometimes called “family style”). The hostess should seat large groups first, so that they will be able to sit together.

Staffing needs

Besides cooks, you will need a garbage bagger refiller/restroom checker, and a cashier. Usually the dining room hostess collects the tickets and is in charge of the dining room workers.

Dining room workers should be added according to your serving style. If your dinner is a buffet, you might get away with as little as three. A hostess can help keep a large group together so that they don’t lose their seats when one member is arriving late, or some other reason.

If your dinner includes hostess seating (called “family style”), then the hostess seats the largest groups first. Smaller groups and individuals then go in. The hostess will try to fill tables. The more guests scatter, the more wait staff will be needed, and the bowls, platters and dishes that go with it.

Family-style wait staff will fetch and refill beverages and desserts (if those are not on the table), and will bring and remove bowls, platters, and baskets of food. If a table needs a refill, the wait staff will bring the bowl, etc. to the kitchen staff. One wait staff per table of four to six people is ideal. However, wait staff could take two tables if the dinner is well organized.

Bussers will remove used place settings. If wait staff double as bussers between seatings, they must wash their hands very thoroughly every time.

Do your workers actually know how to wait or bus tables? They must neither disappear when needed nor make customers uncomfortable by not leaving them alone (staring, interrupting, rushing, etc.). They should ask, “How may I help you” as opposed to, “What do you want”. They should be able to say Please, Thank You, Sir, and Ma’am and genuinely mean it. (A snarky “sir” is no courtesy at all.) They should not treat couples better than single diners, or treat families without children better than families with children, or treat young customers better than older customers. They should not bus a table where people are still eating. They should be genuinely friendly.

Visit a restaurant when you plan your dinner, and observe how paid wait staff work. Discuss what you like or dislike in their approach. (Also, please tip.)

Be prepared for small disasters

Does your kitchen have appropriate fire suppression equipment? Does the dining area? Does the entry area? Do all workers know how to use it? Does everyone know what kinds of emergencies they should not try to solve themselves?

Does everyone know where to find the circuit breaker or fuse box? Are the switches clearly labeled in typeface or ink? (When in doubt, take a nightlight to every outlet, have a second person turn off a circuit or fuse, and document which switches affect each outlet.)

Does everyone know where to find the telephone and how to use it?

Have you assigned workers and arranged tables to minimize the odds of collision with hot liquids or hot dishes? Do you have extra oven mitts so that workers will not drop a scalding dish before it reaches its destination?

Are your coffee and tea containers spill-proof?

If a worker seems sick to you, are you firm enough to send him home, even if it causes more work for you?

Do you have a worker to serve as a runner if you run out of garbage bags, dish soap, or cooking ingredients? Does this person know exactly what to look for in the store? Did you give them the money?

What could weather do to your event? Will you look to local institutions such as schools to determine whether you will remain open or decide to close?

If the power goes out, do you have an alternate light source such as large windows and battery operated backup lights?

Are you willing to sell your meal for half price if the power does not return? Your goal is to empty the refrigerator. Although you might lose half of the anticipated money, you will lose all of the money if you sell nothing. Make sure all workers know the deadline (when a food has been out too long to be sold to the public) as per health code specifications.

Decide in advance how you will handle refunds if you run out of food. A very generous policy is best; it wasn’t the customer who made the mistake.

Tickets

Now that you think you can make this event work, it’s time to advertise it and sell tickets.

What price? What price for a child’s ticket? Will your offer senior tickets? When meals are comparable, what are the prices at neighboring churches?

Tickets and/or advertising should make clear whether you will be serving buffet or family style. It may affect the time at which the customer decides to arrive.

Where will you place the cashier for 1) the convenience of the customers; 2) the convenience of traffic flow and the workers; and 3) the safety of the money.

Decide in advance the exact procedure you will use to move the money from the cash register (cigar box) to the church bank account: who has authority to do what, and when and how they should do it.

Will you sell tickets in advance or only at the door? Will you sell season tickets or single event tickets only?

Will you sell carryout tickets? Will those be advance tickets or door only?

Ideally you should consider how to sell all these types of tickets. Advance and season tickets give you an idea of a minimum number of customers to be fed. Door tickets and carryout appeal to the traveler as well as the spontaneous customer.

Some restaurants offer curbside carryout. Ask if they need insurance for this. It requires that someone other than your cashier would be handling money, plus the concerns that go with it. Usually people don’t mind going into the building themselves to collect their carryout. Curbside service sounds wonderful, but consider your situation carefully before proceeding.

Before you even think about selling your first ticket, develop a consistent refund policy. It should be fairly generous. These customers could have eaten somewhere else. Consider how you would like to be treated.

Advertizing

Ads should contain the name of your church, its location (including the nearest major intersection), its phone number, the date/time, the price of a ticket, the gradations in price, the fact that you sell carryouts, and the serving style. They should be at least a week in advance.

Check with your local zoning board if it is permissible to prop up sandwich boards or other signage on the intersection that leads to your church.

The food: main course

The rest of this checklist is created with the formula that you intend to serve one or more of the “big six:” chicken, beef, pork, turkey, fish fry, or spaghetti dinner. Feel free to skip any irrelevant section; we’ve finished the safety and organizational stuff.

If you serve a specialty dinner, the sides will suggest themselves. For example, duck goes well with couscous; sea bass suggests asparagus. The fish fry? Fries or potato wedges, of course. (The “restaurants” page of your local large telephone directory may feature menus for easy reference.)

Will you serve one meat or two? (Three will require more dishes than you have.)

Will your meat be baked, roasted, broiled, barbecued, fried, “country-fried,” etc.?

Will you be making gravy from this meat? If not, but you still will serve gravy, how good is the purchased gravy?

Will this meat be tender enough that you will not need to worry about steak knives? (This is especially important since most churches don’t have any.)

First side dish

This usually is a root vegetable, typically potatoes. Mashed or boiled are standard choices. No flaked potatoes, please. Customers can tell the difference, and they can eat these shavings at home.

Specialty potatoes, such as scalloped or au gratin, should be a good fit to the main course.

Baked potatoes in foil, or twice-baked potatoes, are warmly welcomed. However, they can tie up oven space as they take a long time to cook. Customers can tell if you tried to microwave them.

French fries are best suited to outdoor settings and/or the “Friday Fish Fry” fundraiser. What seemed like a quick dish at home can become intolerable when your cooks must cope with it for two or three hours. Food prep releases intense heat, steam, and odor into the dining room and into your curtains and carpets. (The reason people serve it at fish fries is because the room is steamy and aromatic with all that delicious battered fish anyway.)

Your first side can be something else if desired. Potatoes are most popular because they are versatile, inexpensive, and filling.

Alternate root vegetable options may range from sweet potato wedges to honey-glazed turnips with pears. Get creative with beets, yams, etc. Creamed onions are a rare treat, and can be either a first side or the specialty second side (see below).

Second side dish

If a nice soup, serve it with your bread and cold dish before the main course. If a vegetable, serve at the same time as the main course.

The second side dish is a chance for your cooks to make a name for themselves. Some serve seasonal favorites such as whipped squash or corn-on-the-cob. (The latter might be better cooked outdoors because it releases so much heat and steam. It also takes a very long time to cook a lot of it.)

You might serve foods that people enjoy but rarely make at home. Examples include slow-baked beans, cornbread-and-corn dish, snap peas or related stir-fry, or gourmet stuffing.

However, it is perfectly acceptable to serve a nice side of peas, corn, or baby carrots if you already have a standout dish in the menu. It just shouldn’t taste as if it was reheated from a can.

Cold dish

Usually a salad, and usually some form of lettuce, but this is negotiable. Consider whether your customers might prefer a salad with less iceberg and more spinach or dandelion (don’t even think about picking them off your lawn).

Salad dressings are a gray area. You cannot reasonably hope to serve a dozen dressings, or even half a dozen. Consider a light universal dressing that the kitchen can mix into the salad before it goes to the table. If you do serve dressing on the side choose a decanter or container that is reasonably attractive (and spill-resistant).

(Now, if your fundraiser itself is a salad sampler, keep 2-3 classic dressings and go wild with the rest.)

Consider a cold dish that does not need dressing. What about a pasta salad, or a fruit salad with strawberry/kiwi or berry combinations? Allergy alert: does your salad contain nuts? A brown rice pilaf provides a delicate nutty taste without the trouble of serving nuts. Cottage cheese, cheese plates, or homemade/specialty coleslaws are other choices.

Breads

“Eat out of cans. Buy your bread at the Safeway in town.”

“That stuff! Made of sawdust blown up—no taste—you could blow it across the room.”

(Mary O’Hara, “My Friend Flicka”)

The fundraiser is not the time to serve bread from a store. Bake real bread or biscuits, or persuade a bakery to donate goods for good publicity. If you must serve store-bought bread, choose bread good enough that the average person can’t tell the difference.

(All right, we are pretending not to see store-bought breads, biscuits, or rolls. If you do serve them it is an unwritten law that the customer must be allowed unlimited rolls and bread.)

Consider a garlic or cornbread. Garlic usually does not need buttering, possibly resulting in one less dish on the table. And yes, it is all but mandatory in the spaghetti dinner. Cornbread needs relatively little prep time and can be baked in bulk.

In the end, what many people want from their bread or rolls is to crumble it into their soup or sop up their gravy/spaghetti sauce with it. Choose bread that is a good fit.

Spreads

Butter, margarine, or both? Stick, tub, pats, or squeezable? All have advantages and disadvantages.

The butter dish is the most welcoming but attracts crumbs, gravy, and other strays. The wait staff should immediately replace butter dishes that look too “used.”

Pats are the most sanitary but can convey an institutional feel. You can compensate with an attractive display. Pats and sticks tend to have the same problem: when they come out of the wrapper cleanly they are too stiff to spread, but when they are warm enough to spread they grease your fingers.

Squeeze spreads vary greatly in quality. An off-brand can taste and look very “off” indeed. Good squeezables are tasty, easy to spread, and sanitary, but the bottles can look a little tacky. To pour them into another squeeze bottle (of a different color than ketchup and mustard bottles) is a judgment call. Pump bottles are an option.

Tubs are the most tacky. Like butter dishes, they can look “used” very quickly. However, a lot of customers enjoy the taste. It’s also the most reasonably priced.

Consider giving your wait staff butter scoops (smaller than an ice cream scoop). Also, a butter dish filled with such “pats” allows for one more option: whipped butter. When very cold it scoops well, and then it melts and spreads quickly.

One new consideration: in 2015 the big chains began introducing “Real, Simple Ingredients” recipes. As a result, the spreads taste … differently. Taste and test your own spread before baking with it or serving it to customers. (Your host has personally abandoned both “I can’t believe it’s not butter!” and “Shedd’s Spread Country Crock” because they deleted the buttermilk and whey, both of which seemed “real” and “natural” to TOM. Presently your host is using “Olivio.” For now.)

If your spreads are jams, jellies, and preserves, the butter scoop won’t work. You will have to experiment with the right balance between tacky containers (if any) and sanitary considerations.

Condiments

Condiments are sauces, relishes, or spices. In this case your choice is between pouring ketchup/catsup into a (can be tacky) plastic squeeze bottle or watching customers slap the bottom of a glass bottle in frustration (which can result in broken glass). If you decide to serve it at all, pump bottles cost a little more but can be a good investment. Many mustards, steak sauces, and barbecue sauces are still packaged in glass bottles. These are all good reasons to serve a great gravy instead.

Gravy boats need to be large enough as to not need refilling every few minutes, but also small enough that a child or senior won’t struggle with its weight and spill the hot gravy. Grips or handles should be appropriate for the weight.

Some of your customers will seem to “drink” gravy. Accept this. Prepare enough gravy to accommodate all your gravy lovers.

If your dinner will be buffet style with gravy in a tub, choose an ergonomic ladle with a padded grip. The best ladles resist conducting heat to the hand of the customer. Try not to let the gravy crust over; keep it stirred.

For the fish fry, your condiments are ketchup, tartar sauce, and perhaps mustard for your fries. Since most of your meal consists of finger foods, feel free to use whatever containers work. Glass is still a concern; it still breaks, and fingers will be slippery.

Wait staff should be prompt to refill the salt and pepper.

Beverages

The classic four choices are decaf coffee, iced tea, hot tea, and iced water. Additional choices would be milk and a 100 percent fruit juice. Sodapop may have licensing issues, and a lot of customers can’t drink it anyway.

A standout beverage like ice cream shakes, creamy punch, or fruit smoothies will certainly give your dinners a name, but first calculate whether they cost more to make than you can earn.

Desserts

Pies or cakes? Tarts, puddings, or mousse? Baked Alaska or brownie pizza? (A favorite style is banana-split “toppings.”) This is another chance to make a name for yourselves. (Your host has seen customers drive 25 miles for a homemade pie.)

Customers will probably like whatever you serve, but remember that you will be making it in bulk. Will that affect its preparation time or its taste?

Cookies, however delicious, are a bake sale item. Paying customers want a dessert that must be eaten with a piece of flatware.

If the treat won’t melt, consider preparing extra (usually family servings) for the bake sale at the door.

Ice cream is one of the few desserts that ranks low on the list. The decent brands are expensive; people can eat that at home; it’s more of a picnic or barbecue treat; and homemade takes all day and too many workers. A sundae bar’s success can vary from day to day. Try it if you wish, but calculate whether you might get more for your money by stretching ice cream into one ingredient in a more interesting dish.

The auxiliary bake sale

Here is where you sell those delicious cookies … and the muffins, cupcakes, brownie squares and other treats of a late-night snack.

Do you have more homemade pies? Sell them here. People love good pies.

Consider additional treats. Are your preserves or homemade salad dressings good enough to sell? Sell them.

If your church recently participated in a mission trip, and you have a recipe from that country, consider whether customers might buy those treats too. Remember where that money came from when you are ready to spend it.

If you will be selling leftover plates of meat/sides, decide whether customers can purchase them in the dining area or at the bake sale table. A pie plate of food for $2.50 to $3.50 will probably sell.

The bake sale should be conveniently located but must not block the door. Not only is it against the fire code, but sometimes people really are full. Treat them well so that they’ll come back.

Clean up detail

These should not be the same people who just spent twelve hours in the kitchen.

Clean up detail will wash the last dishes, then wash the big pots and pans.

They scour the stove, the oven, the refrigerator spills, the sinks, and the microwave.

They clean and put away chairs and tables.

They vacuum, mop hard floors, shampoo carpeted floors, and generally make sure any ant that wanders into your event will be the only thing that leaves hungry.

Finishing thoughts

Praise the Lord. Seriously.

Go home and zonk out.

Rest up for the next one.

And that’s {The End}.

(the post formerly known as http://oldmaid.jallman.net/entry.php?id=24 )

Quick themes for food

Chiefly a collection of good cookbooks and good websites to help you prepare assorted popular potluck themes.

When possible, cookbooks have been chosen for illustrations, easy-to-read print, and some suggestion that the authors eat their own cooking!

Websites were chosen for distinctiveness and no pop-ups. (No promises on busy graphics, sorry.) The largest sites are stand-alone entries at the end of the post. Your host is still learning HTML coding. Just type the address in your URL bar on one line. It’ll work!

Potlucks consist of dishes that are prepared in advance by each participant and brought to a gathering place. Therefore the dishes should be easy to transport and shouldn’t need more than minimal maintenance at the end location. This could mean either a quick reheating of a finished dish or a raw dish in a slow cooker with time to let it do its work.

There are only two concerns with these meals: duplication (easily avoided with a quick list), and people who bring a dish but forget to bring their own dishes (easily amended with spares).

So as parties go, the potluck is one of the easiest for even the busiest among us, and the fundraiser [see checklist in next post] is the hardest. The home entertainer is in-between and, being unique to the personalities and interests of the couples, is not covered here.

What is the purpose of your meal?

  • The picnic and/or outdoor barbecue

 

  • The casual breakfast of the donations-welcome variety

 

  • The casual potluck (e.g. before or after worship, alternately a family & friends meal. Also, most showers and non-catered office parties fall into this category.)

 

  • The casual holiday (e.g. St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day brunch), etc.

 

 

  • Entertaining at home

 

  • Entertaining at home

 

  • The commemorative event (e.g. wedding, baptism, funeral)

 

  • The fundraiser

 

What themes are you considering for the meal?

 

 

  • All you can eat breakfast (e.g. steak & eggs, pancakes/waffles, omelets, Amish casserole, etc., or something different like “Chocolate for Breakfast” by Laura Zahn, or “bills” [sic] ricotta pancakes from Australia: http://www.bills.com.au/recipes/recipe2.htm

 

  • Midday or evening casual, can be all-you-can-eat (e.g. spaghetti, chili, loose meat, casseroles, soups and stews, rolled sandwiches/wraps, pasties, etc.)

 

  • Appetizers. (Example: “Stacks: the Art of Vertical Food” by Deborah Fabricant; “Big Small Plates” by Cindy Pawlycn.)

 

  • Under the stars

 

  • If a barbecue, red meat versus poultry versus vegetarian

 

  • “Pick up sticks” (skewers)

 

  • If for children, finger foods versus course meals (versus washer & dryer). If children will help prepare the meal, try an illustrated cookbook. (Example: “Superfoods for Babies and Children” by Annabel Karmel, or “Good Housekeeping Illustrated Children’s Cookbook” by Marianne Zanzarella.)

 

  • If a commemorative meal, some of the honoree’s favorite foods or foods from the honoree’s travels

 

  • Around the world / Wonders of the world

 

  • Alternately, foods for which your state/province is famous

 

  • Sock hop/Fifties

 

  • Historical era (costumes encouraged)

 

  • Baby’s first foods (alternately, grown-up version of childhood favorites. Match-the-guest-to-the-baby-picture game optional)

 

  • Technique foods: slow cooker, Dutch oven, deep fryer, etc. (Example: “The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying, and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables” by Carol W. Costenbader; “Food Processor Cookbook” consultant editor, Valerie Ferguson; “Doin’ Dutch Oven Inside and Out” by Robert L. Ririe; “The Best Convection Oven Cookbook” by Linda Stephen; “The Best Pressure Cooker Recipes” by Cinda Chavich; “One Pot Favorites” by Joanna M. Lund; “Delicious & Dependable Slow Cooker Recipes” by Judith Finlayson; “A Flash in the Pan: Fast, Fabulous Recipes in a Single Skillet” by Brooke Dojny and Melanie Barnard; “Wok Fast” by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison; “All About Braising” by Molly Stevens; “Grilling” by The Culinary Institute of America; Grilling Cookbook” by Good Housekeeping; “The Smoked-foods Cookbook” by Lue & Ed Park; “Smokin’” [a.k.a “Your Stovetop Smoker”] by Christopher Styler.)

 

  • Camping (travels well, freezes well, minimal dishes). (Example: “Wilderness Cuisine” by Carole Latimer; “Camper’s Guide to Outdoor Cooking” by John G. Ragsdale; or “Roughing It Easy” by Dian Thomas.)

 

  • Tailgating (Example: “Mario Tailgates NASCAR Style: the Essential Cookbook for NASCAR Fans” by Mario Batali).

 

  • No-cook (from salads to sushi)

 

  • Breads and spreads (from loose meats to relishes to preserves)

 

  • Bring-an-ingredient soup/stew (Example: “Saved by Soup” by Judith Barrett; “Ladle, Leaf & Loaf: Soup, Salad and Bread For Every Season” by Lisa Cowden; “Book of Soups: More than 100 New Recipes” by The Culinary Institute of America.)

 

  • Creative leftovers

 

  • Teaching your teen/college student/boomerang to cook

 

  • Favorite films about food (movie night optional)

 

  • How our gardens grew (also, organic cooking; also, seasonal foods)

 

  • Wild game (note: ask a pro)

 

  • Specialty ethnic foods (note: visit specialty restaurants first. If you’re going to make an Americanized version, what’s the point? One exception: parts of the Gulf Coast are still rebuilding. Try “100 Greatest Cajun Recipes” by Jude W. Theriot, “The Black Family Reunion Cookbook” by the NCNW, “Soul Food: Classic Cuisine of the Deep South” by Sheila Ferguson, and this Creole/Cajun site, recommended by the New Orleans Public Library: http://www.gumbopages.com/recipes-page.html”>Creole/Cajun

 

  • Vegetarian/vegan (again, visit specialty restaurants to appreciate the variety)

 

  • Kosher (Example: “Jewish Cooking For All Seasons” by Laura Frankel; “Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking” by Phyllis Galzer with Miriyam Glazer; “Passover Cookery” by Joan Kekst; “The Scent of Orange Blossoms: Sephardic Cuisine” by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane.)

 

  • Restricted (e.g. allergies, diabetic, low sodium, etc.). (Example: “The Gluten-free Cookbook” by Bette Hagman; “Cooking Gluten-free” by Karen Robertson; “The Milk-free Kitchen” by Beth Kidder; “Cooking Free, 200 Flavorful Recipes for People with Food Allergies and Multiple Food Sensitivities” by Carol Fenster; “Diabetic Cooking Around the World” by Vilma Liacouras Chantiles; “Last-minute Meals for People with Diabetes” by Nancy S. Hughes; or “Low-Salt Cookbook” by The American Heart Association.

 

 

  • Old school (“memory lane”). (Example: “The Route 66 Cookbook” by Marian Clark.) Try these sites.

 

“Comfort Foods & Home Style Favorites” at http://recipes.bestsimplerecipes.com/eRMS/Browse.aspx?=847

 

Alternately, “Home town favorites” at http://www.hometownfavorites.com/recipes.html

 

alternately, “Teri’s Kitchen” at http://teriskitchen.com (includes Pennsylvania Dutch section)

 

  • The original: loaves and fishes

 

Recipes, anyone? These are big sites but well-organized.

 

“The Recipe Source” ( http://www.recipesource.com ) has less graphics, more links on frontpage.

 

“All Recipes” ( http://allrecipes.com ) has more (static) graphics.

 

“Bobbi’s Favorite Recipes” (something smaller & more manageable; no graphics on frontpage; page includes links on sushi, tofu, mushrooms, crockpot recipes, regional-Alaska, hot sauce, raisings, fat-free, soybeans, and dining out, among other unique features) at http://worldpath.net/~hiker/recipe.htm

 

Remember “bills” [sic] ricotta pancakes? For more of his recipes, see: http://www.bills.com.au/recipes

 

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