Monday, May 14, 2018

Can You Spell Ptomaine??

We interrupt the May Fair to bring you news on the "incident" Sunday morning.  Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I headed off Saturday morning for Mothers Day prep in the kitchen of the Elks.  For whatever reason, the word didn't get out and volunteers were scarce.

That works fine for me since there aren't as many bodies getting in the way.  I immediately went to work panning sausage and biscuits for the big cook-off Sunday morning.  I think the men were still half asleep as they wandered around looking for coffee.
I wish I could get these at my house.  Bridgeford pre-baked biscuits are the best.  Eight minutes in the oven and you have a wonderful fluffy tasty morsel you can smother with butter or gravy.  Seven pans of sausage, eight pans of biscuits and ten pans of hash browns.
Everything comes frozen, so I filled this entire carrier from top to bottom, then wheeled it into the fridge to defrost during the night.  DONE!!  Next up, I cut and panned something like 400 small bites of coffee cake, a couple of which didn't quite make the pans.  Now THOSE were tasty!!  

As the men ran the slicer, we cut up four of the biggest hams you ever saw.  I stacked meat in five huge pans for baking in the morning.  Finally, and this is the weird part, the eggs come frozen in big bags.  Those needed to be thawed out for boiling Sunday morning.  Not only did we have scrambled eggs, we made seven pans of Denver omelet eggs, with peppers and ham.  Lastly, set up for gravy making Sunday morning.
This is where it all went wrong.  The gravy maker showed up and said we should make it Saturday, then just reheat Sunday.  I was skeptical, but who am I to question ANYONE about cooking.  He cooked up some sausage (I know not from whence it came), then asked for help pouring the mix in while he stirred.  No problem.  

See that really big pan on the right?  The 20 gallon one?  That's what he mixed it in.  The little one on the left got the leftovers.  We placed them on a cart and that's where they stayed as he left the building.  When I tried to get them moved into the walk-in fridge, the men told me NO ... they have to cool down first.  As I finally left two hours later, I reminded them over and over to PLEASE put the gravy in the fridge.
Skip to Sunday morning.  Fortified by half a maple donut, I watched as they brought the gravy out and handed the whisk to me.  Stir like crazy and don't let it burn.  Okie dokie, as I climbed up on my little stool so I could reach.  

I took one look at the big pot and knew we were in trouble BIG TIME!!  The grease on top wasn't flat as it should be ... it was pillowy and pouffy ... gassy to be exact.  No no no ..... this is NOT good.  I stirred the pots like crazy on low heat so as not to burn the bottom.  

Finally I leaned over for a big sniff of the big pot.  I have a pretty sensitive nose.  I can smell things other people cannot and I smelled something really spoiled ... worse than sour milk.  GUYS!!!  This has gone bad.  

That went over like a lead balloon.  They told me it was just the sausage grease.  No, no it's not.  I tasted the small pot and it was just fine.  There was no way I was tasting the big pot, just the smell had me swallowing hard to keep my stomach in place.  GUYS!!!!  This has spoiled!!!  You CANNOT serve this.

They kept telling me it would be fine.  Yeah, it will be just fine when we poison half the population of town.  I took a small bowl around to four other people in my quest to convince them.  Finally, the second in charge said maybe we should make another batch, it did smell funny.  He triumphantly announced to me this pot was scorched.  

There was no scorching hun, that's ptomaine!!!  For whatever reason, maybe they didn't put it in the fridge until too late in the day, but it was rotten ... spoiled ... and there was no way I was eating any of it.  He finally tapped me on the shoulder and asked where I got the gravy so he could make more.  Thank heavens he listened and made all fresh gravy in small batches at a time.  It was terribly lumpy, but who am I to complain!!  At least we weren't poisoning everyone.

I quickly moved to the ovens since no one seemed to be watching any of the food cooking there.  The men kept getting side tracked.  It's okay, THIS is the part I like to do.  I LOVE these ovens ... four regular and two warming.

One by one, all of those 39 pans of food were cooked and delivered to the buffet table.  Since I had one of the few pair of heavy duty oven gloves, I delivered most of them.  My shoulders are screaming at me this morning!! 
In no time, over 350 people went through the line.  Amazingly, I didn't burn a single thing, though a couple of those hash brown casseroles were a little over done, having sat in the warmer too long.  
At long last I turned the ovens off and began the cleanup process.  That part was pretty easy.  I just told the young cleaning/dishwashing crew to load up to-go boxes for themselves, and voila, all that food disappeared.

The last I saw as I walked out the door, was that big pot of spoiled gravy still sitting on the stove.  It was no longer my problem.  Once home, I crashed on the couch.  Two days of being on my feet for twelve hours was enough.  Time to recoup!!!


  1. Well that was an experience. Really gotta love a nice commercial kitchen to work in.
    No matter what you made it through the ordeal and was a success.
    Glad nobody was poisoned, (a good thing). And when cooking like that if it does not smell right don't eat or save it.
    Those 12 hour days on your feet are killers I managed to make it through 10 years of that and my back and legs still suffer after 19 years away from it. Rest up and you be good as new again.

    1. I figured you would know the feeling George. Lots of hard work, but I do love those commercial ovens. Wish I had one at home. It's nice you were able to retire. People don't realize how hard it is to work in a restaurant ... and I only do it a few days a year.

  2. Hope your Elks appreciate you. Lots of hard work.

    1. I think they do ... at least they always thank me!!

  3. Amazing how people don't understand the concept of "food safety". So happy you caught that, it could have been headline news....

    1. Yup, you know exactly what I'm talking about. These guys are just cheap and don't want to waste a single thing, but that can get you in trouble. Plus, you know us women know nothing about food prep.

  4. You are an amazing lady, sometimes they don't deserve you. Keep the nose smelling, the shit would have hit the fan on the Elks had people gotten sick. Thumbs up for your good job! Rest today.....I hope that is on your agenda. :)

    1. Sometimes I wish my nose would quit working Patsy. I did rest ... sort of ......