2 min

Catering: your party depends on it

Plus: when to avoid sushi and chocolate fountains

Once while working at Royal Bank Visa, the person in charge of the annual Christmas party — aka festive celebration — invited me to take part in the planning committee. At the time I was used to parties where the food consisted of big bowls filled with chips, a couple of plates covered in orange-coloured cheese, and microwaved bacon strips wrapped around pieces of pineapple. This was years before I had my first olive and years before I discovered the joys of cheese not made by Kraft. In retrospect, I could have been more cultured, but I was cuter then so it didn’t really matter at the time.

Given my limited food experience and given that I was a recent university grad whose main concern for the catering consisted in my not having to pay anything for it, I spent most of the meeting spouting superlatives and nodding my head as people threw out ideas: Veggie kabobs — great. Chicken skewers — fabulous. Mini-cheesecake — yummy! And then someone suggested sushi.

For some reason that I have yet to this day figure out, the main manager at the Royal Bank Visa Western Card Centre insisted on having sushi at our annual Christmas party. This would have been a reasonable and practical request most years, but we were holding the party at the Vancouver Aquarium. Instead of visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, I kept visualizing schools of fish swimming around to Jose Feliciano’s “Felice Navidad.”

When I pointed out that maybe sushi would be a problematic choice — kind of like having chicken nuggets at a bird sanctuary or eating venison during a screening of Bambi — she insisted that it was her staff party and that if she wanted sushi, sushi it would be.

Given that I’d heard stories of her refusing to reverse interest charges on people whose accounts had gone delinquent due to cancer, I knew arguing would be futile. Sometimes you’ve got to choose your battles and if that means having to watch your fellow workers stuff their face full of raw fish while they marvel at the beauty of glassed-in “fishies” than so be it. It could have been worse though, at least they didn’t order caviar.

Apart from the queer film festival party held this past summer that decided finger foods and a giant chocolate fountain would be the best way to cater a pansexual, mixed-gender event at a local bathhouse, most of the tragic catering decisions I’ve encountered over the years have usually happened around Christmas.

(Seriously, people kept sticking their fingers into the chocolate fountain and walking around with brown-tipped digits, something I never want to see in a bathhouse again. Though I made an executive decision to not partake in the chocolate, I’m sure by the end of the night that it tasted like a weird mixture of chocolate, door knob and ass.)

I’ve been thinking about the sushi at the aquarium issue lately as it’s almost the end of November and, hence, the beginning of the holiday’s high party season. While I know that most of you reading this have a highly developed sense of decorum and would be sensitive to problematic catering decisions, I would ask that you take a little bit of extra time and consider the ramifications of your selection. Your party may depend on it.