By Ben Nitkin on
For a few glorious hours, my dining room was transformed into a wood shop.
Okay. "Glorious" is an exaggeration. So is "transformed" and "wood shop".
For the past month, I've been organizing an international food tasting entitled "Technology of Food". International students are presenting food from their homes, with a focus on how the resources and history of the nation shaped its cuisine.
Until last week, we were planning to cater through college dining services. They have a monopoly on on-campus dining.
Seven days before the event, we sent them details and asked for a quote. Five days before the event, they told us that we hadn't given them enough notice. They wanted 10 days notice; two weeks for strange ingredients. (Did you know that Wegmans sells octopus? We didn't.)
Between then and now, we've moved the event to a residence hall (where we're allowed to self-cater), made posters, gone shopping for groceries, and bought catering supplies.
We need to serve food hot, of course. Sterno (small alcohol burners) are the easiest way to keep hot food hot. No electricity, no smoke, and it's what dining services uses. But flames need air, so we need to suspend our trays of food not-on-the-table, which brings me back to the wood shop.
We couldn't find a stand in any of the stores we visited, so we decided to make our own. A trip to Home Depot netted us a pair of 2x6x8's, a saw, hammer, nails, and some tiles.
A little cutting and banging later, I had a pair of "L" brackets for each tray. They'll hold up the corners of each tray while the Sterno burns happily beneath. (As an added bonus, the bulky "L"'s will contain hot air and more evenly distribute heat across the bottom of the tray.)
T-7 hours for the event. More cooking today, then feeding a lot of people.