Thursday, July 21, 2011

You know what you don't ever seem to hear about on wedding blogs? Wedding FOOD. I don't know why that is. I mean, it's weddings and food. TOGETHER. Seriously, what's not to love? Maybe it's because it's usually the bride who's telling the story and, apparently, brides do not eat at their weddings (was I the only one who actually ate something at mine??), or maybe it's just because wedding food is so often criminally dull.

My friend Kristen has a lovely boyfriend who just happens to be a professional chef. If my boyfriend were a professional chef, I can tell you right now that I'd be a big giant fatty, but not Kristen - damn her and her skinny genes. Anyway, as head chef of an exclusive country hotel and with plenty of weddings under his belt, he could tell you a thing or two about wedding food, and has been known to express his horror at much of the cookie-cutter fare that is served up at wedding after wedding after wedding.

Your average Scottish hotel wedding menu might consist of some kind of smoked salmon starter situation, or maybe some haggis if we're being *really* Scottish. This will invariably be followed by chicken that is so dry you have to slug copious amounts of wine just to force it down (well, that's always been my excuse), accompanied by a dribble of salty gravy and some rock solid potatoes. For pudding, you're usually talking (yawn) cranachan. Much as I love cranachan - a deliciously fattening confection, consisting of masses of cream, oats and raspberries - it does get rather tiresome after the seventh wedding of the summer. Finally, the meal will be put out of its misery with a splash of coffee in a cup so small you can't actually fit your finger through the handle (tea, always go for the tea! Big cups!) and maybe, if it's a very posh affair, a wee sliver of shortbread. Oh, the excitement.

The best bit though, is the vegetables. Specifically, the seemingly exclusively wedding-related trend of Vegetables Wrapped In Other Vegetables. 

One tipsy evening, Fin and I were regaling Kristen and her boyfriend with tales of a wedding we had recently attended, and the first thing he asked was, "Were the vegetables wrapped in other vegetables?". Erm... yes, as a matter of fact, they were. "Let me guess, let me guess. Was it... a courgette with carrots sticking through the middle?" No, actually, it was a carrot with mange touts sticking through the middle. "Ah! A new development in the Vegetables Wrapped In Other Vegetables phenomenon!"

Apparently, Vegetables Wrapped In Other Vegetables are the height of culinary tackiness. They're like the food equivalent of selective colouring. In other words, just don't do it.

When it came to our wedding food, I hoped it wouldn't be yet another bland meal to be endured rather than enjoyed, a way to kill time between the ceremony and the drink-fuelled dance-fest. The golf club where we held our reception was at the end of the street where I grew up, and we chose it for all sorts of reasons - convenience, nostalgia, subsidised booze - but when it came to the food, we took a leap of faith; the most I had ever eaten there was fish and chips. But they assured us they could pull it off, and we had no choice but to trust them. 

A few weeks before the wedding, we trooped nervously along for our scheduled tasting. Oh my word, it was delicious. Beyond delicious. What's more, it was beautiful. Each trial dish had been prepared twice, in two different presentation styles, so we could pick and choose how the food would look as well as taste. Tower or stack? (Stack.) Rocket or micro-herbs? (Micro-herbs.) Chocolate sauce squiggle or chocolate sauce heart? (Heart, obvio.) We left delighted and relieved, and every day until the wedding we hummed and hawed over what we would choose on the day (that's right, we had actual choices on the day. Three choices! For each course! For 140 people! Winner!). And of course, of utmost importance, there wasn't a vegetable-wrapped vegetable in sight. 

Or so we thought.

Until the moment on our wedding day when the waiting staff streamed out of the kitchen and, with a flourish, placed steaming dishes before us. Moist, melt-in the mouth beef, creamy mashed potatoes, a rich, unctuous, gleaming sauce, and... oh god. What is that. Is that... yes it is. Oh no. It's Vegetables Wrapped in Other Vegetables.


As the guests of honour, Fin and I came face-to-face with this monstrosity before anyone else. We wolfed down our food, watching nervously as plates arrived at table after table, edging ever closer to where Kristen and her boyfriend were sitting. The tension was unbearable, the mortification almost too much. Finally, the moment arrived.

The plate is set down. He looks at it. He looks at Kristen. Then the two of them look at us. And we all dissolve into utter hysterics.

Bizarrely, it's one of my favourite memories of the day. I like to think of the Vegetable Incident as yet another example that no, things might not be exactly as you've planned them, but you know what? They'll be better.

Now, dish (pun only a little bit intended). What is the best/worst wedding meal you've ever encountered? What about your own - barbeque, food truck, four-course banquet? Mmmm, food...

P.S. Remember when Kristen and her boyfriend treated us to a night in the swanky hotel where he works? Guess what the waitress brought to our table for dessert? Two huge plates, covered in delicate whorls of caramel sauce, and bang in the middle: carrots wrapped in a courgette. I'm pretty sure the other diners thought Fin and I were having a synchronised fit when that arrived.

{All images, yet again, by the utterly-amazing-in-every-way Lillian and Leonard. Apart from the vegetable ones, clearly.}

11 boats moored

  1. This is officially going to out me as a BAD PERSON but we went to so many weddings last year we decided we would make it a bit more fun for us and use it as research for when we get hitched by devising our own four weddings style judging criteria. From this I can conclude anything where you get a choice is good, anything where there's not enough food is bad. If the boy ever asks me we are defo going for bbq!

  2. Well I am one of the ones who ate very little at her own wedding. I kind of forgot since it was a "standing" reception. Cake I ate, 2 kinds at least, and macarons, and ice cream. At some point I was almost fainting so I had a slice of melon with ham, and that's about it. I think the food at our wedding was quite nice though, from what we heard. We had a high-tea / brunch in different stands kind of thing. There were different cakes, scones, tea, an ice cream car and also some REAL food for the ones that not only survive on sugar (like the boy and I would love to do), so there were salads, ham, quiche, thigs like that. It was not a sitting dinner, since it was a day reception, so people would go and eat and mix and change places continously. What I do remember is that our cake was super good. I am looking forward to our anniversary so we can have some more :)
    For the worst wedding food ever you are right about the dry chicken... why can-t they figure out how to make it juicy and tasty?
    For the best wedding food ever award, I think that would be the last wedding we went to which was in Italy (which, of course). Everything was scrumptious, risotto, mellanzane parmigiana (oven dish with eggplant), lasagne, all kinds of ham, and the most delicious desserts and finger food. It was just perfect.

  3. Awww I like chicken with haggis. Haven't chosen my menu at all yet, it's one of the many things looming on my massive wedding to do list that hasn't been to-done since I started on this horrific soul-sapping project at work. Holidays tomorrow though!

    Best weddign I went to had a cheeseboard per table, and I was at a table that didn't appear to eat cheese - total score!

  4. Chicken that was raw in the middle - lovely!

  5. I am getting married in five weeks. In North Spain, where I come from. There, wedding food IS important. My parents still talk of weddings in the past where they "only" had three types of seafood before the mains (there's always two mains, one fish, one meat)and how the fish was/wasn't fresh. Imagine how I felt when I moved to England was served invariably salmon and chicken in EVERY wedding. We are only having ONE type of seafood (plus fish, plus meat, plus two types of dessert). My mum is soooo embarrassed about what people are going to say... And I know guests will talk for years about how we only had one type of seafood. Do I care? Not really!

  6. ok, so I haven't been to too many weddings (at least, I can't recall the food... except that time I mistakenly ate fondant. BLECH.). I've worked oodles of them, but in the floral biz, you aren't typically invited to stay for the festivities. so I'll talk about the food at OUR wedding.

    like a world-class idiot, I ate (nay, wolfed) a sandwich at 5:30, a mere 1.5 hours prior to our wedding. the bridesmaids' luncheon earlier that day consisted of a lovely salad and a cheese souffle-type thing that apparently didn't hold me over too well, because when I saw the leftover sandwiches from the boys' daytime excursion, I HAD TO HAVE ONE. so basically, I wasn't hungry at our wedding.

    but the food. oh, the food. we had a macaroni and cheese bar, with toppings like tomatoes, bacon, jalapeños, and other lovelies. we had frozen margaritas, beef tenderloin, grilled vegetables (not wrapped in each other, sadly), taquitos, lime agua fresca, and lord have mercy, I can't remember anything else.

    I had a couple of bites to savor the day (and they made us boxes of food for later), but generally, I missed out. which is sad. I should also probably mention that I had a wicked case of the flu the week prior to the wedding, and the rehearsal dinner was the first food that I could actually taste for the first time that week.

    but yes, I think the food is tres important.

  7. we had in awesomely low-key party in the park. There was food. I know there was. I saw the tables piled high with it. I remember some of it on my plate even. Surely I ate some. I have no idea what it was. (Tony's lovely mother took care of the food bit.)

    Except the chocolate fountain. I remember that bit!

  8. Also, I've never heard of cranachan so I looked it up. It sounds like heaven to me.

  9. Ha, I had no idea that vegetables wrapped in vegetables are a "thing" (admittedly, I have not been to all that many weddings), but I am sad to hear that they are considered tacky. I'm going to pretend that they are not considered tacky in the US, for they were served at our wedding and my mom thought that little bundle of asparagus and pepper strips tied with a scallion was the coolest thing she's ever seen. I thought the food at our wedding was delicious--the chicken dish was pretty standard fare but on the tastier end of wedding chicken, but we also had pork tenderloin with a Thai chili sauce, which was a welcome departure from the norm. Our appetizers during the cocktail hour also included a monstrous cheese board, which made me very happy.

    Unfortunately, my mom got ill that night and thinks it was most likely food poisoning from something she ate that evening. She was just glad that no one else got sick, but I'm not sure I'll ever get over the guilt of my mom getting sick from my wedding!

  10. Ha ha ha ha ha! Veg wrapped in veg cracks me up every time! I am going to stuff a carrot into a courgette on Sunday in celebration! xxx

  11. Well, clearly I need to wangle an invitation to a continental wedding - sounds like Italy and Spain know what's what when it comes to wedding food! Mmmm, yum.

    Linsey, I actually love chicken and haggis too, the problem is just that it's hard to get it right for so many people.

    Becky, I'm sure it's not tacky in the US, you know what us Brits are like! I had no idea it was considered uncool until K's boyfriend enlightened me, oops.

    Amy - we secretly rank weddings too (shhh). Not with a proper scoring system (respect to you guys!), but you can't help but make comparisons... ours was number one, OBVIOUSLY. Not that we're biased or anything.


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