Well not one little pig. A whole lot of pig, actually. Yes, at last it arrived, the great Tenderloin Exodus. Today was the day we had enlisted ourselves to help Jean Anne cater an Insurance conference in Indianapolis. We had a blast... we had a ball...we had too much pie. There was leftover :)
So the alarm went off at 5:20 and we actually got up... even me (upon reading this, every jaw in the Najuch household will have just dropped). I am not a morning person. In fact, if it were up to me, I'm not even sure I'd be an afternoon person. But - we were so scared of letting Jean Anne down that we veritably zipped into action. We got dressed, folded out Nick's T shirts safely in my backpack (we weren't sure how grimy the prep work would be - and we wanted to be spanking new for the big show), hitched up the weiner and headed over to Nicks. Cindy the awesome waitress who's been there for 14 years and heard Rich was going to be driving a stranger's truck with a giant fry-o-later in the back through morning Indiannapolis traffic, greeted us with a big smile and said "Hey boys... GOOOOOOD luck!". We went out back, and helped Jean Anne's husband, Kenny (who, for a construction worker from Tennessee, is just about the sweetest fella ever - (although, due to his rapid twang every so often I only understand about every third word he says!) load the giant van which she had rented and got the fry o later up into our truck. Kenny was gonna drive the van - containing all the food items (in coolers, and bins, and trays and stacks) and Rich was gonna drive Jean Anne's brothers truck (which she discovered driving it to the restaurant had 'shitty pick-up') with the fry o later and big boxes of liquid shortening (that is the ACTUAL term on the box) to Indianapolis. We brought Carmen the GPS Garmin just in case as a backup, but we had mapquested and Kenny was gonna lead the caravan. We swung by Jean Anne's house, dropped Po off with her two dogs for an extended play date (reminding her it was NOT polite to eat all of her hosts' dog food) and drove off. Listening to her bark at the top of her lungs at six am. Jean Anne's son was there to watch them - so I'm sure he was thrilled. Po also had never experienced a fenced in back yard before... so we were hopeful that she wouldn't try to tunnel to freedom and become a crack-weiner living on the streets and selling her body for twizzlers. She likes twizzlers.
So - we headed out to Fort Wayne. Totally smooth sailing. No truck crashes involving eight tons of oil lubricating an entire free way... nothing. Traffic got heavier as the hour and a half drive progressed into peak morning city congestion - but it really was nothing to worry about. Jean Anne, other than arriving at Nicks extra early to load the van was actually pretty darn calm about the whole thing. Maybe there's tryptophan in pork?
So this was the plan: We had to drive the truck and van to the house of the guy who booked Jean Anne for the catering gig. He apparently lived pretty close to the convention center. We would unload the giant frying vat monster and the two cardboard crate things of liquid shortening, along with the four coolers of tenderloins into his back yard. Kenny was gonna stay THERE and fry 240 pork tenderloins. 240. We would then take the van to the conference center, and set up everything else. Fifteen minutes before lift-off Rich would go pick up Kenny and the giant metal pans of hot crispy fried pork-ness. Our first hurdle was finding this guy's house. At first we were totally flumoxed because we ended up in very...shall we say...urban area. And this guy was like a white-bread insurance go-getter and we thought we must be all confused. At one point Kenny got out and we were trying to find a location and Kenny pointed towards one house and this hysterical sassy little african american girl (a gaggle of them apparently were unaware it was a school day) said "That's my house", expressing a degree of surprise that four white people...never mind four white people wearing tee shirts with pork on them with a giant fry-o-later were about to camp out in her yard. It was not her house... but it was pretty near. We actually weren't as far off as we thought.... turns out our insurance hotshot was lower on the power-broking totem pole than we figured. He's an up and comer... not an 'already came-er'.
So we found the house... found the garage... unloaded the stuff... and left Kenny with four big coolers of these:
Ready to be dipped into this:
So - we were off. Frankly - I'm glad I wasn't Kenny. Because timing the preparation of 240 fried pork tenderloins in an hour and a half would be way too much pressure. I was nervous enough about stacking coleslaw.
So - we headed to the convention center. At this point Jean Anne was very, very, very happy that Jo Jo insisted on bringing the GPS - because it turned out that we had great directions to the guys house... but crappy directions to the event (which seems a little ass-backwards if you think about it.... maybe this guy isn't coming-up at quite the stratospheric rate we hoped). Anyway... we called him on his cell...got the address... plugged it into Carmen and BAM we were off like... well like a van full of coleslaw.
Our first unloading spot at the convention center was way crappy. It seemed to be the official unloading area - but it was like a mile from where the food had to go. We brought our dolly - but STILL. 240 twenty ounce bottles of soda ALONE is a lot to deal with. Unloading the van itself wasn't that bad... Due to a slippery cooler I did cause one sizeable pie avalanche... but no pies were lost. "No pie left behind" - that's our motto. Rich dropped a case of pepsi... but we decided by the point the stuff was served we'd have a good chance of being carbonated explosion free. And anyway - these are insurance guys... they must have Act-of-Pepsi insurance, right?
So once we found actual area where we were supposed to serve lunch, we realized there was a place where we could get the van right outside... So Rich zoomed round and we continued unloading. Our loading zone was actually right beneath this statue of Young Abraham Lincoln (which I think I've seen somewhere - i think it's some Indiana landmark or sumthin'). Lincoln grew up in Indiana and built his cabin (out of Lincoln Logs, I assume) so he gets a statue.
Once it was all unloaded, Rich parked the van and Jean Anne and I set up the table configuration she wanted and started setting the coolers and everything where they needed to be. Rich got back - and the first order of business was assembling the 'boxed lunches'. This involved taking one of the cups of pickle, lettuce and tomato, and a hamburger bun into the container and then stacking them (we would put the tenderloin on the bun when they came through the serving line). This, of course, is a dawdle unless your making like seventy zillion of them. We also discovered that, although Jean Anne wasn't fussed about them being tightly sealed (since they just had to open them again to get their tenderloin from us) they HAD to be sealed our you couldn't stack them. And if one thing kills a catered down-home lunch, it's picking carpet lint out of 240 cups of coleslaw and macaroni salad. It all kind of became this game because Jean Anne prophesed that she has a very competitive nature, so very rapidly into the process buns started flying (insert pun here), and we started stacking and sealing like loons.
With a reserved area on each side for serving the hot tenderloins when they arrived. Plus we set up four big coolers of pepsi, diet, sierra mist, and water along the side. Now... here's where things got tricky to juggle...
The pork was going perfectly on schedule... but insurance organizer dude suddenly was needling Jean Anne to start lunch about a half an hour early. It later transpired that this was the first event he had organized. Because if it HADN'T been, he would have known that you don't order a hot catered meal... and then ask for it a half an hour early. Because if it had been READY a half an hour before you wanted it originally - it would no longer be HOT when the ACTUAL time came around. Jean Anne was not thrilled... we called Kenny - and he only had about three quarters of them done by the time we had everything else set up. So she sent Rich to head back to Kenny, pick up what was ready, we'd start serving, and then Kenny would deliver the last bunch. And Rich was gonna pick up ice on the way at a gas station.
Apparently there are not a whole lot of gas stations in Indianapolis. And they don't sell ice. Rich had a heck of a time finding ice... and we had cell phone calls going back and forth about priorities of ice and loin and loin and ice... it all got very complicated... Eventually - (and right on schedule for the ACTUAL serving time) Rich arrived with about 180 tenderloin stacked to the gills in coolers. And, even as a non-fried-food eater... they smelled pretty darn yummy.
And then he zoomed off to continue his ice-capades. About ten minutes after we started serving he arrived with ten gigantic bags of ice... we could have just spilled them all over the floor and staged an ice show pork tribute to elvis: "Love me Tenderloin" - but intstead we just dumped them into the soda coolers.
The serving went like clockwork... And I got very handy with my tongs. The trickiest thing about the whole endeavor was actually people handling the stupid containers...which were REALLY nice quality and great if you have like pasta with marinara sauce and you're taking it home from a restaurant and you want it sealed so it doesn't open up in your car. But if you just want to pop open the lid while you're carrying your container, and juggling your baggy of utensils and condiments plus your coleslaw cup... not so easy. Plus we should have opened the buns for them. But Jean Anne felt that considering those were the only major lessons to loin (gettit), it was a pretty huge success.
People did NOT take pie however. And I just want to send this message out to my fellow Hoosiers. "What is wrong with you people??? It's f---ing PIE!!! Pie is good... It's as American as well.. apple PIE. So take your pie and be happy about it. I mean you were happy making room in your belt notches for slabs of breaded fried pork the size of a Pekinese, so why not just suck it up and HAVE THE FREAKIN' PIE???". Of course - it meant there were tons of extra pieces that we got to take home with us... so Rich and I will be living for the next year on sweet cream pie. Ok we only took four pieces home... but still. This stuff is pretty addictive. It's sugar-cream pie... which is like creme brulee with pie crust. What's not to like?
The best part of the day was that there was a lot left over - so after the convention gang went off to their next scheduled thing, Jean Anne invited the whole custodial staff who had been really nice to us... and they were all SOOO excited. And they LIKED pie.
By the end of it Jean Anne was totally thrilled with how it all went (except for the insurance dude forgot her check... yeesh)... and she thanked us like a billion times. Honestly, everything we had to do was super easy... i think she was just really happy to have two persnickety boys who she knew were reliable and enjoy tiling individual pie receptacles in pretty geometric configurations. We have skills... marketable skills, I tell you.
After we packed up the van, and headed back to the van to get the fry-o-later. Which Kenny drained out into five gallon buckets. This is a scary sight. If you like fried food... I heartily suggest you avoid ever taking up fry-o-later drainage as a spectator sport. Then we loaded up the truck as well and headed out on the open road. Jean Anne insisted on taking us to lunch, so we detoured to a place called Cheeseburger in Paradise.
Apparently it's far more successful than it's Chinese sister-chain: Lo Mein in Nirvana. We sat and had a great time chit chatting and eating....fried food. I actually had no intention of ordering anything fried.. cuz I chose a jerk chicken sandwich with a sweet potato side... and i've always known jerk chicken to be kind of a sticky sauce. But it arrived, crispy and greasy and golden brown. With sweet potato CHIPS. And - in honor of the day's events - I celebrated and indulged. Yum.
We were exhausted and I crashed in the truck on the way back (surprise, surprise)... and Po returned happy as a clam. With an expression that vaguely conveyed "um... what was all that about and who where those furry grey guys?". Mike Glass the window guy had already arrived and used the lock box, and was busily finishing up most of the windows with caulk - and they look AWESOME... and we were all ready to call it a fun filled day of adventure complete when Rich was getting out of the truck and took a very, very sharp intake of breath. "What, what?" I asked. Pause. Pause. "Nothing" He said.
When Rich says "nothing" after a sharp intake of breath it means he's not telling me because he knows I will have a complete nervous breakdown WHILE he has to deal with whatever CAUSED the complete nervous breakdown AND me HAVING a complete nervous breakdown. I got out of the car and started looking around the alley like a kid on an easter egg hunt for grenades.... and looked up in the air... and saw this...
That would be one of our multi-thousand dollar, brand new, installed-right-before-we-bought-the-building, very very heavy AIR CONDITIONERS. That are powerful enough to cool the auditorium and the foyer. There are four of them. That is one of them teetering twenty feet in the air like a giant domino of death. Against ANOTHER multi-thousand dollar air conditioner waiting to push IT over onto the NEXT one of four multi-thousand dollar air conditioners.
I handled it extremely well and started spinning around like a chicken with my head off. These things had been installed and they had not even BOLTED them TO anything. And the storm must have just pushed it down that ledge thing. And it's been sitting there, in the alley, as people drive by it all day balancing above their heads.
The installers DID NOT DO A GOOD JOB.
Rich went in got Natalie to call them them. She got a secretary who said she'd "try and send someone round tomorrow". We informed her that they were about to be responsible for a very heavy object to fall and kill someone at any moment and they might want to send someone round to take a look. They did. It was only about twenty minutes into this discussion that Rich and I realised we were attempting to be very serious while wearing matching tee shirts with giant pork tenderloins on them. We looked like some sort of weird cult members.
Like an hour and a half of tsuris later... two REALLY nice guys from the company took their lives into their hands (in my opinion) tackling this themselves with nothing but two ladders - one of them too short which they tied to the top of their van to get up on one side. When they first arrived and looked up... they did NOT look thrilled. At first they thought that someone 'Must have pushed it over" - which of course happens all the time when something is suspended twenty feet in the air totally isolated from any other possible means of access. And then they admitted that the storm might have pushed it over... and if the storm was able to do that, they probably were 'not secured too well'. So they got up there and one of them managed to get on the right side and push it back. Now the reality is... if he was able, by himself to push it back...and he said they weigh like 150 pounds... then OF COURSE the wind could push one over. I mean the wind picks up COWS people... this is INDIANA. I mean wind picked up Dorothy's whole HOUSE right?? So they got it back and then screwed it to the plastic sheet it was sitting on. Rich and I pointed out that if the wind was able to move the 150 pound object, would it not be safe to assume that the wind might also move the two pound sheet of plastic it was sitting on. They admitted it might... but they didn't have long enough screws, and they could come back tomorrow and secure it to the metal frame if we wanted. We wanted.
Then Rich got into the whole discussion about what would happen if they are damaged. They had pulled one pipe like three feet across... the freon could have been compromised... one of them was dented (they pulled out the dent) and they certainly sustained some impact. They said the warrantee would cover it. No... the warrantee covers a faulty product... not a damaged air conditioner which some yahoo decided to balance on a shelf in tornado country. I mean when the phantom drops the chandelier the opera mangers don't go.. Okey dokey - we'll use the warrantee. If it's a persons fault... it's not the fault of the people who made it. No dice. So they eventually agreed with us... and I will point out again.. these guys were really nice and risked their life and limb to save our air conditioner from doing a Greg Louganis. And we can't TEST them because they aren't hooked up yet... and won't be hooked up to electricity for about a year when we open the theatre.
The guys up one side and down the other promised us that it wouldn't be damaged. They told us they'd worked with these things for years and they are very sturdy. As a illustration one of them told us a story about how he dropped one and it rolled down a hill and still worked. This story instilled enormous further confidence in the company's installation expertise. So Rich is going to email the scary-ass pictures we took to the head of the intallation company (which Natalie's builder uses for a lot of contract work... so we have some leverage) and make sure we get his guarantee that if anything is wrong with them they'll be responsible.
And I thought stacking pie was stressful. Oy. Anyway. We're really lucky, honestly... because it's very very likely the thing is perfectly fine.... and it didn't get destroyed or hurt badly, or push any other over... or kill anyone. Or us.
The adventure continues.
I shall leave you with happier thoughts... These are the pics I took of Rich in his official Pork-Tenderloin garb. We shall wear them with pride. Probably not at the same time anymore. :)
xo JO JO