22 August 2011

Exposure I

Once upon a time, I catered for a living.

It wasn't the classy, dinner party kind of catering.

So much fucking class.

It was "catering" on an institutional scale for institutional crowds and by God, we used every last bit of institutional equipment we had available to us to do it.

We had walk-in refrigerators the size of studio apartments and walk-in freezers you had to go through the refrigerator to get to. They were dark, terrifying and occasionally accumulated an alarming amount of ice on the door opening mechanism. A single bulb lit the space and tried its damnedest to fight the brutal cold but could only cast a sick, yellow pallor on the frozen boxes.

There was a rack full of dirty winter coats to wear and if you were going to be in there for more than a minute or two, you were wishing you had taken the chance and grabbed a communal coat.

What I'm saying is, it was pretty fucking cold. Deep freeze, 0 degree constant temperature kind of cold. I would guess that when people die from exposure, those kind of temperatures are the last thing they feel.

The deep freezer, incidentally, was where we kept the muffins. The muffins are what we laid out, by the dozens, for our morning catering gigs. You can't put frozen muffins on a plate, of course. They have to thaw first. Fourteen pounds at a time, we'd thaw those boxes out in the (also walk-in) refrigerator.

Thawed and served.

Actually, that's how Otis Spunkmeyer (of cookie fame) continues to market their thaw and serve muffins to the foodservice industry. These tasty looking treats are not only the "#1 brand of individually wrapped muffins in foodservice", but they also have the "quality appearance consumers love". The implication of the first statement of course is that there may be a number one provider of non-individually wrapped muffins (?) and the latter statement implies that Otis Spunkmeyer knows exactly what you, the consumer, love.

The muffins are passable. They're perfectly consistent and if you take them out of the walk-in soon enough they're nice and room temperature-y by the time all the conventioneers have turned to them in a desperate bid to clear their hangover-fogged heads.

If you're a restaurateur or in the foodservice industry, none of this is surprising. And you probably don't really care. But then you've probably also stopped reading already. I point this out for every person who ever walked into a ballroom at the Hilton or the Metro Convention Center and thought, "Damn. That is a tasty looking batch of muffins." Next time, think twice.

They aren't fresh baked. They're not very tasty and the biggest thing they have going for them is thaw and serve convenience. Skip the muffins. And if you opt for the bear-claw instead and find it's a little cold in the middle? Now you know why.

I will always lie to you.

Parts two and three to follow.

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