Two weekends ago, in the backyard of a farmhouse in Central California, I got married. It was undoubtedly one of the happiest weekends of my life, but the wedding itself was also the most stressful, expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive parties I have ever thrown, in part because I took on a lot of cooking projects for the big day.
Some might call it crazy to make five pies, six quarts of Thai sweet chili sauce, and ten quarts of ginger simple syrup in the weeks leading up to a wedding, but I don't regret a moment. Here's why:
For me, cooking is a way of making connections with the people who eat the food I've made. An idea that springs up in my head and is created by my hands embodies, I believe, some essence of me by the time it ends up on the plate. So it was only natural that in the months leading up to an intensely personal celebration, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen.
I left the bulk of the reception meal in the very capable hands of our caterers and focused on three things I love experimenting with in the kitchen: condiments, cocktails and dessert. To accompany the Thai grilled chicken on the menu, I made sweet and garlicky Thai chili sauce. My friend and bridesmaid Jessica, the one-woman wonder behind SQIRL preserves, made a giant batch of peach and lemon verbena jam, and we spent an afternoon canning it together with another bridesmaid. For the signature cocktail, a rye whiskey and ginger beer concoction, I made an extra-spicy ginger simple syrup to mix with soda water, as a cheaper alternative to ginger beer. And over the course of several months, I made and froze five fruit pies, which were served for dessert, alongside an assortment of treats made by a handful of talented friends.
I may be ambitious, but I am no masochist; none of my projects required any prep on the day of the wedding and only one — the pies — needed any work in the week before the wedding. The jam was canned a month before, and the chili sauce and ginger syrup were made and refrigerated two weeks before the big day.
I'm not going to lie: it was a lot of work. And yes, I did contemplate throwing in the towel a few times, but in the end, seeing those I love best in this world eating, drinking, and enjoying a meal my friends and I helped to create was worth all the hard work. Could I have bought the chili sauce, the jam, the ginger beer, the pies? Yes, and it would have made my life a lot easier, but some meals are about much more than convenience. This was one of them.
Have you ever taken on a lot of cooking in preparation for a big event? Why do you make instead of buy?
(Image: Annie Shannon)