THURSDAY 4 MAY LITCHFIELD
Another day of learning……
The bulk salads for the bus group lunches were made in the afternoon, for the next day, after the cafe lunch rush had died down. Three such salads were to be served each day – from a repertoire of coleslaw, pasta salad, Waldorf salad, potato salad. Once I got into the routine of it all, the actual choice of which three I would make each afternoon was mine.
Boss 1 did not like commercial dressings, especially mayonnaise, so sour cream was used to dress the coleslaw and potato salads, but he did use mayo on the Waldorf one. The pasta salad was one of his own devising: combining pasta spirals, olives, semi-dried tomatoes, capers, and dressed with the oil from the jar of tomatoes.
Once made, the bulk salads were stored in fridges out by the wash up area, part of the system of minimising traffic through the kitchen in the day time. The system worked well.
The bus groups were also served mesclun mix, from boxes that lived in the outside fridges; tomato wedges, sliced red onion, sliced cucumber. One of the first tasks each morning was to prepare ice cream containers of each of the last three and put them in the outside fridges – one container of each for each thirty guests. Given that, as the season built, there were regularly bus numbers over 100, that was quite a bit of slicing!
But there was more. Each morning, once bus numbers were known, meat platters had to be assembled for each group. More slicing! Much, much more slicing…..There would be – per person – two slices of ham, two of corned beef, and one of salami.
Sliced bread came from the freezers for them, and individual butter and margarine portions were kept in the bus group fridges.
B ran the bus group area – arranging the right number of chairs in separate group table clusters, setting out the foods, supervising. J soon was roped in to help her.
The cafe burger offerings included standard mince beef patty one; kangaroo, using strips of roo meat; chilli – using a really hot sauce obtained from a Darwin supplier; barra, using frozen Nile perch; vegie, using a frozen hash brown; Chicken, using a frozen, crumbed schnitzel. Each of these used different salad and dressing combinations. For the first week or so, I was always having to surreptitiously refer to my little notebook to check the assembly of anything other than the standard beef burger, with its meat, bacon, egg, cheese slice and salad.
The burgers went into a standard white hamburger roll, which would be heated/toasted on the hot plate. One of the early morning jobs was to slice a lot of these and have them thus ready for the lunch action.
The salad component, used in all except the chilli burger, was made up each morning, in advance. The so-called lettuce cups: a cup shaped iceberg lettuce leaf containing grated carrot, tomato slices, red capsicum rings, cucumber slices, red onion slices. These were assembled on large trays. It was then simply a matter of inverting a cup on top of the assembled burger contents, putting on the top part of the bread bun, and putting a long wooden skewer down through it all, to hold it together. Quite clever.
The cooked burger components were done on a hotplate that was part of the stove. It was only large enough to make about four burgers at a time.
It was evident that the two or three hours from starting at 8am, were going to be an absolute flurry of work, prepping for both the bus groups and the cafe trade.
I watched, and helped a bit with the lunch trade, which was not too large. At least, the making of the occasional ordered sandwich did not hold any special secrets.
I was quite surprised that the vast majority of the cafe customers ordered some sort of burger, rather than sandwiches. I’d have expected a more even mix.
By knock-off time, John’s feet were sore, after a day of working on them.
Before dark, I phoned son to wish him happy birthday – 32. No mobile signals out here, so had to use the office phone, which was in a corner of the cafe, behind the counter. Not at all private.