Thursday, 1 October 2009

The work Christmas lunch

Rita is now on 2 weeks annual leave following the intensive tender-writing period at work which, combined with one of the most horrendous weekends of her life recently, seem to have knocked the very stuffing out of her!

Sitting here in the sanctity of my lounge room today, watching Dr Phil (obligatory viewing, I believe, for those on leave from work!) and with a batch of shortbread in the oven, I logged onto Facebook to check out what the rest of my group of friends and relatives are up to, and happened on a photo of myself at a work Christmas lunch in, according to the date stamp on the pic, 2004.

This photo bought back a swathe of fond memories, mostly of the gastronomic kind!

You will all have been to work Christmas functions. You will have sat through all the usual:

*the waiting – for everyone in the group to arrive there at the venue (cos you know they won’t take the order till everyone’s there!)

*the ordering – this proves most annoying to me, because inevitably before the venue has been booked, the menu has been distributed round all staff (in an attempt at inclusiveness), so it seems to me that EVERYONE should have a fair idea of what they WILL eat and what they WANT to eat that day (that’s on the menu), so WTF can’t they just order it!! But no, they usually need to faff around and reinforce how really important it is about what they mean when they specify that their steak should be ‘medium’, or some other such vital bit of info that inevitably drags out a process that ideally could take 5 minutes but usually takes 20 minutes!

*the moving around and chatting to everyone, so when waitstaff eventually bring out first course and place the plates down in the allocated spot (the order in which the order was originally taken) the person sitting at that spot looks up at the waitperson in displeasure and says “I didn’t order that”! That’s when my blood really starts to boil, and I have to physically sit on my hands in order to restrain myself from belting the dickhead in a manner not unlike the way Gibbs gives Di Nozzo a good clip round the head in NCIS!

*the indifferent service – by a disinterested waitperson, not caring that this function is fulfilling a very important function in the day-to-day workings of the workplace.

*the food – try as hard as they might, most chefs find it impossible to produce food that matches up to each and every one’s expectations. It’s a fact, I’m afraid.

*the cost of this meal – because of the very fact that this is indeed a Christmas function, so naturally the menu will usually be along the lines of the standard Christmas fare, thus causing most present to comment at bill paying time that THEY could have produced the same for at least half the cost, and naturally tasting WAY better than what they just ate.

*the bill-paying process - this is the time I REALLY have to physically restrain myself from pulling the pin out of the hand grenade I have stashed in my handbag especially for this very minute! My very BIGGEST PET HATE is the bit where a large table sits analyzing the bill, working out what they had, then scrabbling together all their spare change, completely overlooking both a tip for poor waitperson, plus the fact that they had 4 pre dinner drinks which they fail to factor in to their owed amount, and leaves the last person to pay with a ginormous bill to make up the difference between the sum total of the bill and the amount left by all diners at the function which they considered their owed amount! The rest have, by now, all departed so the poor old last person out gets lumbered with a huge amount to pay!
(I have been known to pay the bill for a table of 12, quietly myself, then equally as quietly departing, leaving them still arguing at the table as to who had this or that, and who wasn’t paying for this or that!!)

Well – in 2004, fed up with all the above, and determined this year was definitely NOT going to be a repeat of any of the above, Rita sat down and thought about what exactly it was we were trying to accomplish, and how the best way to go about it might be under circumstances of our own making.

The solution was obvious, and easy. Hire your own venue, provide your own food and drink and make it a memorable Christmas function with the addition of entertainment of your choice.

So – that’s what we did. I sent round an email to all staff asking if anyone was interested in catering for our Christmas lunch voluntarily. Around 10 people were, so we met, decided what we wanted to make, costed it out, sent round an email to all staff requesting the per head contribution we predicted the food to cost to buy raw ingredients, then waited for the day to arrive.

I also organized to hire the cutlery/crockery/glasses plus obtained serviettes and a few extras, as well as decorations to brighten the place up with. The entertainment was Karaoke, and one of us had that so it was all go!

I had booked the Training Rooms at the Botannical Gardens – which at that time (it isn’t now) was in a separate building on its own, over near the Peter Cundall vege garden – the most ideal spot for this function – central, easy parking, its own toilets, and sink (so we could wash up).

We dined most royally on the following lovingly homemade and wholesome food:
The largest platter of oysters (kindly donated by an oyster producer)
A beautiful chicken curry and rice
Beef stroganoff and rice
A whole baked salmon
Dips and vegetarian quiches
Assorted salads
BBQ chicken
Fresh coffee (one of the guys bought along his coffee machine, plus fresh roasted and ground beans)

All wine and soft drinks were donated by our CEO – a most generous gesture.

The karaoke went fabulously well, and was a great hit. One of the guys donned the Father Christmas outfit and we did the Secret Santa present-giving and sitting on Santa’s lap thing. People got slightly pissed but it didn’t matter – we were in the privacy of our own room, and they were dropped home by fellow staff or taxi. We could make what speeches we wanted, with no loud music of someone else’s choosing interrupting, or creating a different atmosphere. We weren’t at the beck and call of FOH or BOH restaurant staff, or competing for service with other tables as is usually the case at a restaurant.

For me, it ticked all the boxes for a work Christmas lunch, and this has been borne out when I’ve subsequently met others who have moved on in their place of work but who were there on the day, and have reminisced fondly about that day.

Posted on by Rita


Anonymous said...

My work should do that. It sounds fun and better than what we do.

Anon2 said...

Ah! memories! It was a good one! A sunny, hot day - no refrigeration at the venue, I recall - but we had plenty of ice! Is that 5 years ago?
Cheers Rita

Lonie Polony said...

That sounds like a good idea. I think I will skip this year's work Christmas - I'm a bit more (pre-epiphany) Scrooge than Tiny Tim, I'm afraid ;)

Stephen Estcourt said...

Oh Rita
With 11 weeks to go to Xmas most ow which I will be in court in Canberra you have sent me spiralling into Xmas depression.
Thanks heaps!

Hazel said...

A much better idea - have had many bad xmas lunch experiences. Worst one by far at a certain pub in battery point - it didn't matter what entree or main you ordered it was glued to your plate with a dollop of deb instant mash potato - had decided against the pudding and opted for the trio of ice-creams. I was slightly concerned that one of the 3 would be a scoop of deb, luckily not, but the trio consisted of 2 flavours!
On a better note was the banquet for our small office at Me Wah - fantastic!

sir grumpy said...

Even a home DO cant be fraught. I made a time-consuming dessert of
crushed shortbread biscuits, layed with ice-cream, more biscuit, ice-cream, then topped with caramel.
Took ages and only me and a grandchild ate any!
(And it wasn't that bad).