A Slightly Different Sunday – Helper for a Day

catering gig

I have been going through something of a transformation of late. Not one of my choosing, but as it turns out, a transformation thrust upon me that appears to be changing me in a profound way. I was helping out a friend yesterday and while on our way to the wholesale club, BJ’s I went on a tangent—as I often do—about a kitten I had named BJ, (Bumper Jr.—a long story, and I was A KID.) Since there was the BJ theme, (hold the snickering, please), I followed up that superb piece of nostalgia with my rather strange infatuation with a television show, BJ and the Bear, a big hit from 1979 to 1981. Ok, maybe not a BIG hit… but it was on TV for 3 years!  And yes, I watched that show. Honestly, I had a bit of a crush on Greg Evigan. The monkey sidekick was a bonus. Strange how life tends to skew how we see things. Television helps in that respect. I thought driving an 18 wheeler looked so ‘glamorous’. Again, having a monkey sidekick didn’t hurt. But when I look back, I thought this was a cool job with what seemed like endless possibilities of fun. I realize that somewhere between an idyllic childhood and a cynical adulthood my opinions changed, reality took over and maybe my driving a big rig was not as glamorous as I thought. Clearly, I could not be wearing my pair of Donald Pliner couture boots in that particular job. Today I would look at being a travel expert or a food critic or fashion buyer as my slightly more tangible yet wholly unrealistic job choices.  As a kid, where others wanted to be a fireman or nurse, a doctor or a policeman, I was pretty sure I wanted to drive a BIG truck or a Zamboni—holding out hope I could work for the New York Rangers. We are taught that these aren’t necessarily the best jobs at all! At least, not if you want to make a lot of money and a lead a thrilling and glamorous life. Though, sometimes I still think having a truck and a monkey beats almost anything. But I digress, as all of my BJ and the Bear talk actually brings me to a point.

I had a most interesting, enlightening and rewarding experience this past weekend. And it was really just as a favor to a friend who has an emerging catering business. This was clearly not the same as driving a big rig with a monkey or giving the Ranger’s an ice resurfacing they could see their beautiful faces in, but it was the same in that it was something I had never done.  My friend is a wonderful cook, with years of catering experience. She needed a helper for the day of the event she was catering and without a great deal busying up my social calendar, I offered to help. On the day before the party, as she prepared oodles of food, I kept her company. I would love to say that I was a sous chef to the master as she prepared culinary delights, but reality is I was mostly moral support as she literally plowed through six dishes in no time at all.

For the day of the event, I helped her load the food, all the trays, and accompanying accoutrement into the car in what is probably my forte—organization.  I didn’t know what to expect. I have never worked in food service of any kind. Cooking for family and friends is vastly different. Like a seasoned pro, she had me and another woman, (whose ginger cookies were a big hit), helping in the set up as she got ready the appetizers. I was doing my best to aid her, but mostly just tried to anticipate anything she might need and do my best to stay out-of-the-way —even though the warmed brie with brandied pecans seemed to be screaming my name. NOT sneaking food was also a first for me. J

This was a surprise party for a golden anniversary couple. It was the bride who was unaware as the groom was in on the planning. I had my first tray in my hand as I floated through the kitchen and living room presenting nibbles of food to happy guests. The family was all there just awaiting what would be the very surprised woman of the house. I would not have considered myself much in the way of a people person, but found myself graciously offering stuffed mushrooms and tiny pigs in blankets, effortlessly holding a tray in one hand as my other held the fanned out napkins to take with ease. I think I had my epiphany as I knelt down, tray in hand, to offer some much appreciated food to a lovely 92-year-old woman. There it was–appreciation. It turns out I am very capable of smiling and walking around with food. I am equally—it seems—engaging and courteous. I mean I’m REALLY pretty good at it.  It is very possible I am making myself sound WAY better than I was, but everyone seemed quite pleased with our professionalism as well as the quality of my friend, Jenn’s, superb food. I can see where she gets such joy from her business, even though it is a GREAT deal of work to pull off a perfect party.  I saw instantly, the gratification on her face when we were finally packed up and heading home. I understand it. As with anything that you put your heart and soul into, that is as personal as your cooking and putting on a party, there is a level of satisfaction that is acutely apparent—and it WAS. I felt such admiration for her hard work having been received so well, and to be honest… I patted myself on the back a little for not having screwed it up.

I have worked in an office my whole life. There are so many other places to be. And I have to say that seeing how happy people are who have fewer headaches to deal with in putting together a party–like food prep, service and clean up–it was pretty gratifying.  It certainly helps that I am a self-professed foodie who loves to cook—and eat!

I always felt as if this was a job for other people. Mostly because I didn’t see how I would ever manage to prepare, transport and serve a feast, but now that I know it IS possible. I have a friend who loves it so—who is very good at it, and I truly hope she asks me to help out again. It was a pleasure getting out of my comfort zone. It was a pleasure working with a pro. It was a real pleasure getting great feedback.

So, that being said. If you have any need for an amazing caterer, and you’re in the general vicinity, check out:


Tell her Red sent ya!

xoxo DDJ



geezerpalooza for blog

Our lives are made up of an endless array of solitary moments. And if we try, we can remember snippets of time from the deepest recesses of our memory. But just ‘trying’ doesn’t always do the trick. Sometimes memories need a little jarring. Sometimes those memories are not necessarily vivid clips from our lives, but more akin to a warm feeling—a sensation like arms wrapped around you in a bear hug. How we pull those memories to the surface to bask in their warmth and joy is easier than you think. Take yourself back in time with a party of the kids from your illustrious childhood!

I graduated high school in 1982. We had a pretty large class—in the 500 student range. I went to my 30th reunion 2 years ago and—thanks to Facebook—once again was able to share my life and stories with people from my childhood.  Some of those wonderful people shared stories with me dating back to Kindergarten.  As incredible as that was, it was a reunion, which meant it was sort of staged and stuffy, with me having to wear uncomfortable shoes.

Flash-forward two years. It’s 2014, and the majority of my graduating class is turning 50.  A brilliant idea that we could arrange a mass celebration was conceived.  I admit I hesitated for a micro-second. Then as if speaking to my quirky, silly side—Marla came up with the name ‘Geezerpalooza’. I was SOLD. At that moment I had no idea what to expect, who I would see again or how it would leave such an indelible mark on me, but I knew I was going. Months in the process, two very, VERY hardworking, local graduates took the reins. It would be a picnic event at a local beach from our childhood. The massive undertaking was handled—from the point of view of the unwitting party-goer—effortlessly and seamlessly. There was a great deal of interest in this milestone event—turning 50—being shared with people that not only shared the birthday, but shared so many memories. People were coming in from out of town or out of state either FOR the event or finding time to get to it while seeing family. This was BIG.

Geezerpalooza weekend:

The big event would be Saturday, but those needing passes to the beach and those who had come in from out of town, would meet up at a local bar Friday night. THIS is where I began to feel a new level of excitement. So many faces, still familiar. So many stories to share. There is a common bond from a childhood like ours.  A time where there were no cell phones to call you home—maybe you had that ‘be home when the street lamp goes on’ curfew, or maybe it was a call from the stoop.  We played outside with friends we made—no play dates arranged by our parents. We were part of a socioeconomic group—middle class—that is all but extinct today. The amount of time we spent together without the myriad of distractions that come with today’s world is what I believe forged indelible memories, and lifelong friendships.  I felt it as soon as I walked into the bar. There was one common denominator, “You from North?” “Yes”, was all it took. Everything after that might as well have been talking about a movie we all had seen. I had a smile that literally hurt from being permeated on my face. We were even lucky enough to have our high school band teacher join us! There was a surreal feeling about seeing all these people who had spent the last 32 years building personal worlds, with families and careers and still feel like we were kids again—back in Commack, back in the hallways and classrooms and the courtyard, and the band room, or in any of the elementary schools, or the two junior highs. At the end of the day, the reality was we graduated Commack North together.

The morning of Geezerpalooza was awash in a steady rain. Some of us were completely indifferent to it. I know I didn’t care. It’s water… No one cares what we look like, it’s not about that. So, a few of us went—in the rain– to set up for the day. About an hour after that it started to clear. More and more people would arrive and as they approached we would stand and guess who it was. There were various circles of people chatting amongst themselves—not unlike high school—but it was ALL good. Everyone was smiling, laughing, eating, and telling stories while music from our youth blared. And by blared, I mean at one point, a female officer approaches our party inquiring who the permit holder is. She was STERN! Something about loud music… asking for Wendi! (Our hostess!) There was a moment of WTF?! Then there was the moment of HOLY CRAP! It was a fellow graduate with probably the greatest stunt I have ever been witness to. Had this day been scripted, it would have taken one heck of a writer to get it this perfect. I—personally—cannot begin to explain what this day meant. A seemingly simple get-together of friends from 30 or 40 years ago made me feel nostalgic and overwhelmed with fond memories.

The party lasted till 8 PM and some of us even went out after that.  It was crazy. And as if this wasn’t enough, a few of us had brunch on Sunday as well.

I sat around that brunch table trying to wrap my brain around why this was so significant to me. Why did I feel as if falling into a new friendship with an old friend was so easy? It dawned on me—it was the innocence of the time, and the innocence of us as kids in a middle class neighborhood in the suburbs of New York.  There is a bond that we all seemed to share that was not just the classes we took together or the places we hung out. It was a shared culture, a shared neighborhood, and a shared place in time. We were really blessed to be from Commack, and I don’t think I ever gave it much thought. But, at 50 years old, and after a weekend with my fellow ’82 Rams, I have a clarity about what we all shared.

Of all the people that attended and a couple who were SORELY MISSED—I have to hope that one or more of us will make the effort to make this an event that can take place, not as a milestone celebration, but simply as a celebration of our friendships.

As far as I am concerned, this was the FIRST ANNUAL Geezerpalooza. I hope others walked away from the weekend with a similar sense of kinship. We shall always have our youth if we have people in our lives who share our stories.

Everyone is the age of their heart. ~Guatemalan Proverb

xoxo DDJ        Debbie Dworken-Jaffie