The sample real life story (a.k.a. memoir) and companion essay on this page highlight the catering industry's chief ingredient -- food and how it's served. If you're in a different industry you can speak about your fascination with key resources in your industry.
“Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.”
-- Anthony Bourdain
Life Changing Encounters With The Unknown
"It was on Catering jobs that I had my first oyster, first taste of caviar, first bite of foie gras (force-feed duck liver, now banned in NYC). None of them did I like. Yet I felt enlightened that I now knew their taste and texture when someone spoke their name. (I did love the first ceviche and molten chocolate cake I tasted on a job! Years and years before you could find it in the refrigerated case at Trader’s Joe!)
But setting the dinner table was perhaps my most shocking experience when I worked my first high-end event (and it was very high-end!). To the left of the charger plate, three forks – two salad and one dinner, working your way in. To the right of the charger, three knives – starting from the right working in, two salad and one dinner. Then above the plate one dessert fork (really the same as a salad fork) and a dessert spoon, and make sure the fork faces to the right and the spoon to the left. Then if there was an entree choice and a guest ordered fish, you had to replace the dinner knife with a fish knife.
Yes, before that, I had eaten out at nice restaurants, had multiple courses. (Remember, I'm recalling over twenty years ago when I first started in Catering.) I had attended low budget catered events; small weddings and celebrations, the type where the host was usually personally involved in the planning of the food (warmed in aluminum tins atop wire collars lit by Sternos).
But I had never sat at a table that was set beforehand with silverware for multiple courses. (And over the years I have noticed the guests, who like me at first, are confused by all the silverware!)
Setting that table, I suddenly understood how much more Food is about beyond the bites: personal identity; group affiliation; and socioeconomic class. There are ritualistic communications happening in how food is served. I pondered that first party about the differences -- in space, time, and content – of my eating experiences and those of the guests.
But as time passed and setting tables was instinctual, I became fascinated by the diversity of the guests I was serving. Many were very nice, even playful, and shared their personalities and called out mine as I served them.
Those friendly, caring interactions with guests, many of affluent backgrounds beyond my imagination, built up my confidence in my own personal value, whatever the setting." - Trayce
New stories for this Story Category will be posted above the sample story.
In Much Of The World
(including pockets of the U.S.) discussion about Food is still very much about survival. For the well-off world we are part of, Food has become a key stimulus to Travel. According to TripAdvisor bookings the fastest growing Travel category is Food Experiences. Locally Food Travel has been stimulated by the rise of Food Critics, and Eatertainment Dining where good food (including festivals) are combined with drink, entertainment, and other activities under one roof. (Check out this comprehensive History of Eating Out in America !)
In New York City
perhaps the biggest spur for working people to Food Travel has been getting a job in the high-end Catering and Restaurant Industry. Working people not from New York City always imagine that their counterparts in NYC neighborhoods are very worldly in contrast to them: “They Live In New York City !” But the type of living you do here is determined by zip code. In working neighborhoods you may be the beast on your own streets--but asked to go on an adventure or a job interview in a neighborhood you don’t know, often (not always) the quick response is, “I don’t do that. I don’t go to that Borough.”
You must understand how so many working people get around NYC; they don’t have to worry about parking tickets! The Subway. The concrete, endless stairs up and down into the depths, then tunnels branching off in a spread of directions, leading you into confusion. If you are a working person (and lucky) you live an average 40+ minute subway ride to work (and then back). You start and end your work day in physical tension among crowds, backed up on packed stairs up or down. Do the routine 5x a week; not refreshing. But there’s always the days off....
GPS Is Barely A Teen
Yes, it’s easy now to know how to get around. There’s GPS and almost everyone has a cell, including many homeless people. But it was only in 1998 that Vice President Al Gore announced that the US government would be making GPS satellite signals available for civilian / commercial purposes. GPS technology had been developed for military and space applications.
(The spark that would lead to the invention of GPS came in 1957, when MIT scientists watched in defeat the data being broadcast from the Russians’ beat-you-there! launch of Sputnik. Studying the new kind of data they saw patterns in frequencies, turning their observations into innovations that eventually became the GPS we take for granted now! )
Only in 2007 did the Global Positioning System go mainstream to cars and phones. Then it was not until 2009 that President Obama’s initiatives supported the widespread use of cellphones for working people.
Before that there was the folding paper Subway map which first became available in 1972. Before that, if confused, did you dare depend on the kindness of strangers when the trains at that time were filthy and dark tunnels smelled of urine? (You could! The majority of NYers have always loved helping strangers! But you couldn’t know that if you never left your neighborhood and known hangouts.)
In New York City
point is, even if some 20-30 something adults in working communities see NYC as a world wide open for their exploration, many of their parents didn’t feel that way back in the 1980s when they were children of 20-somethings who saw NYC more as a closed off world. Where if you went to an unknown area you couldn’t be sure you’d be welcomed, or could afford within your budget what it would cost tp eat, play, and experience. Staying comfortable and near to home was the normal.
It was only in the first decade of this century that in mass, restaurants created Catering departments and individual chefs started their own Catering companies. (Check out this fun History of US Catering from the first major catering event in 1778!)
Share your Story about ‘Food Travel’, be it a food experience in another country or another neighborhood. (You can write about a food experience even if you don't work in the food industry.) Or talk about your fascination with another kind of resource that is key to another industry.