Coffee in the New Orleans skyline mug--how appropriate considering today's topic of our Gumbo for the Gulf event,"Cardinal Song" from Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers by The National for tuneage. Fall is here, summer isn't even a memory. It went by so fast, so chaotically, and so stressfully that I am lucky to not remember it through my exhausted haze. Fall has brought cool weather, rain, and the long-anticipated Slowing Down for me (really). It's also brought a return to blogging (yay!) so let's get on with it.
Last Saturday was our first big event in the studio in a long time. We had a fish-themed project day aligned with a charity event--Gumbo for the Gulf--with all proceeds from the gumbo going to the Nature Conservancy's Fund for Gulf Coast Restoration.
We had quite the team lined up for the day. Brian demoed making fish beads. Lee helped former date nighters (or anyone who had taken an intro to glassblowing from us) blow glass fish. Todd assisted anyone age four or up in making a kilnformed fish. Dave (my wunder spouse) served gumbo and beer all day. Dee ran the front desk/cashier station greeting people and managing the donations/payments. Judy ran the information room which featured a running slideshow of all our date nights to date (over 110), a board with photos of all the daters in order of their dates, and sign-up sheets for several upcoming classes. Lee's daughter Evie and two of his regular students/protegees Austin and Christie assisted Lee with the flow in the hotshop. Judy's husband Carol was on-hand to help with whatever unassigned tasks might manifest, and I was the designated floater for pitching in wherever needed. It was the most prepared I have been for anything in the studio ever--and it took more than a village to make it happen.
Even before Saturday we were preparing. I spent two days organizing and cleaning in the studio during the prior week, and then Judy, Dee, Lee, Austin, Carol, Brian, and Todd all pitched in on Friday for the final straighten/organize schlep-it-to-the-shed push. Dee also picked up the 1/2 keg (15 gallons) of Shiner Bock for the big day and delivered it to the studio.
Food preparation started Thursday--at least the physical part. The mental preparation and organization had been going on for over a month since Dave read about the Gumbo for the Gulf dinner concept and decided he wanted to do one for our friends. I shanghaied both him and his idea and turned it from food for 10-15 at our home into food for 160 at the studio. He rose admirably to the occasion and got several of our friends (thank you Becky-the-bookkeeper, Keith and Arno-Dee's-husband) to pitch in and help.
On Friday Arno trimmed and chopped 20 lbs of chicken thighs. Becky and Dave chopped 15 onions, 20 green peppers, 40 celery stalks, and ten bunches of scallions. All choppers slayed 10 lbs of andouille sausage. Keith made the roux from scratch and directed construction. Arno and Dave baked cornbread. Dave planned 10 batches of the recipe cooked in three segments. Food chopping and prep began at 9:00 am Friday and actual cooking began at 9:00 pm and went till midnight. Dee, Mike and I supported the chefs by drinking beer and eating Thai take-out. Dave was up and cooking again at 4:30 am on Saturday and we opened the studio doors at 10:00 am.
We were mostly ready and in our places for the first two attendees who showed up right at 10:00 am sharp (I always have at least an hour of last-minute putzing to do for shows and big events, and Saturday was no exception). And then we waited. And we waited some more. Maybe people were afraid they wouldn't find parking. I sent out another email with instructions for free parking. And then we waited some more. By the time we closed the doors, 11 people had come to our Fish Saturday in the Studio and Gumbo for the Gulf event. Three or four of them blew fish, three or four of them donated money to the Nature Conservancy in exchange for a bowl of gumbo and (maybe) a beer, some of them just donated money because they had eaten before they came.
It was hard for me to decide to write this post. It's easy to write about successes, plans, exciting developments--even bad shows. Writing about Saturday feels like telling the world you threw a party and no one came, or sharing how you went to a dance and spent the night standing by the wall--the only one never asked to dance. But I'm not 16 anymore, and business isn't a popularity contest. If I didn't get the attendance I thought I would (/deserved) then I need to try something else next time. There were a lot of reasons people stayed away Saturday and I would venture none of them were about me. Well, no more than one or two of them were about me. I'm sure some of them were about Todd, or Dee, or Lee...
All kidding aside, it was a really rough day, and I hope both that our one year anniversary party next month goes better, and that I still have a village that'll show up to help! Here's a last shot of Carol heading home with a thermos of gumbo and a thermos of Shiner. What a way to end the day.