Baby Carrots As MetaphorPosted: March 15, 2011
Ballin’ Chain’s excellent post last week got me thinking about an issue I grapple with constantly in wedding planning: the value of things, most recently the value of baby carrots.
I am one of those curmudgeonly cooks who refuses to buy baby carrots since full-grown carrots that you peel yourself are so much tastier, cheaper, and more carrot-like. And although I readily admit I am a bit of a food snob, I don’t think it’s snobby to expect better than baby carrots at an expensive restaurant. So I was rather flummoxed to find them on a $56 plate of food at our reception tasting the other night. It had a small “beef medallion” and a small crab cake (both of which I’ll admit were good and presumably accounted for 9/10 of the value of the plate, before profit and overhead), a small pile of charmless mashed potatoes, a few strips of steamed asparagus, and the wretched baby carrots. Said carrots were also steamed and plain – no butter, no parsley, nothing. Just some naked baby carrots on a $56 plate.
For about a week leading up to the tasting, I was emailing back and forth with the catering coordinator at our reception venue, selecting which items we wanted to try, finalizing a time, etc. It was a lot more complicated than you might expect, since the catering coordinator had to act as the go-between for me and “Chef.” Granted, my restaurant industry experience is limited to one summer spent waitressing at a Tex-Mex chain, but I always thought “chef” was a title, not a name. “Chef is going to get back to me about that.” “I’ll let Chef know.” “Chef would prefer it if you arrived earlier.”
Well, Chef-who-is-fancy-enough-to-need-no-definite-article-or-last-name was not above putting baby carrots on an expensive plate. (Am I ever going to let this go? No.) When we were finishing up the wedding cake samples (conveniently, our venue also does the cake, though this is obviously an additional cost), Chef came out of his kitchen to ask us how we liked everything, which was polite of him I guess, but he seemed annoyed that we were not raving about his humbly prepared creations. He also attempted to give us a biochemistry lecture on why carrot cake and almond cream filling don’t go together (my takeaway: walnut plus almond equals two nuts, *snicker*, and somehow this is a problem), the whole point of which was to discourage us from choosing the carrot cake/almond cream combination for the big day. I wish I had said, “I have an idea, Chef! Let’s take the walnuts you use in the carrot cake, grind ’em up and sprinkle ’em over those pathetic baby carrots – no extra cost to you, Chef, and y’all can feel a little better about charging 56 greens for that artlessly arranged plate” but instead I said, meekly, “Yeah, I think we’re going to go with the white cake anyway.”
I know complaining about wedding food is cliche: it’s practically supposed to be overpriced and mediocre. I also know I must seem blind to the world’s ills to be griping on about something so trivial as baby carrots when many people, say those in the disaster-ravaged parts of Japan where food is becoming scarce, might be grateful to eat anything. But it’s not the baby carrots themselves that are the problem; it’s that their stumpy little presence on a $56 plate is such an easy reminder of how crazy we are to spend what we spend on weddings. When not hosting a wedding, this same venue charges no more than about $25 for an entree and uses more sophisticated ingredients. Yes, for a wedding it has to factor in the cost of serving 200 of the same thing, but I have a hunch that the cost goes up mainly because it can — since fools like us will pay whatever they are asked to pay — and not just because there’s so much additional overhead. I’ve heard the same is true of other wedding services – for example, you may pay about $50 to get your hair done at a salon, but tell the hairdresser it’s for your wedding and the cost nearly doubles. It’s madness!
So what do we do? I don’t know, rant about it on a blog that gets maybe 20 visitors, remind ourselves that these are very first-world complaints, write a gigantic check, and send our compliments to Chef: “Those baby carrots were unforgettable!”