After a particularly difficult week, my wife went to the bullpen for the “big righty” to close with a Friday night dinner-for-two. I’ve spent nearly 40 preparing for pressure-packed moments like this.
A meat and potato man at heart, I had my favorite butcher pick out a couple of winners, namely two tender T-bone steaks for grilling. With those steaks cooked to near-perfection, it was, I humbly admit, game on and game over.
Given the next day’s itinerary, a 24-hour escapade to our nephew’s wedding in downtown Pittsburgh, the juicy steak dinner could not have been more timely given the impending preselected wedding reception entrees bearing the descriptors “vegetarian,” “vegan” and “pescatarian.”
Our traveling companions for the weekend would be our youngest son and our newest daughter-in-law. Now in her first trimester, she wonderfully is pregnant with twins. One could say she is “eating for three.” Food was very much on the brain, though in her case, only temporarily in the stomach.
Oddly enough, our one-night stay at the Quality Inn had the distinct amenity of being constructed atop a Panera Bread, a favorite stop for a mouth-watering Pecan Roll, which I consumed shortly after arriving.
Having checked it, we explored the wedding gift bags filled with goodies of a local variety, which included pretzels and honey-mustard dip, a bag of cheddar-cheese popcorn, and, I learned later, a candy bar which my wife grabbed before I even saw.
Perform a search for points-of-interest in the “Steel City” located just over the Allegheny River, and you’ll likely come up with some of the venue for our plush weekend festivities: The Bosque at the Carnegie Library and The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
No detail lay unattended, and the exquisite performances were well-rehearsed and precisely choreographed. As per the expressions in a letter from the bride and groom, this would be a celebrative collage of “love, beauty, sustainability and service.”
What could possibly go awry with four wedding coordinators meandering around with headsets and walkie-talkies overseeing every elegant movement?
The nuptials on the front lawn of the historic downtown library were thoughtfully placed late in the afternoon so as to shade attendees. Everything was under complete control as the string-quartet began a melodious repertoire spanning the likes of “Hornpipe from Water Music” to an upbeat version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
But, as the designated hour approached, an unanticipated “snowball” of sorts appeared in the middle of this humid July evening and began, I might add, to roll, gradually picking up steam.
Troubles started when the grandparents were delayed having missed their shuttle to the ceremony. The quartet nicely filled the gap adding 20 more minutes of pre-service music. After a lengthy processional of a wedding party of 26 people and one tuxedo-adorned canine, the order of service unfolded. Always a question mark, the officiant took longer than anticipated to fluidly and seamlessly blend the four selected and eclectic readings into a coherent and inspiring homily: a song of Fred Rogers, a writing by Martin Luther King, Jr., a verse from James, the Apostle, and a quote from a social activist Dorothy Day.
These delays compounded matters particularly with respect to electricity, which was being supplied by a three-foot square solar panel propped against a tree. With the service extended and the sun’s light fading, so did the sound system, giving out right in the middle of the only piece of special music.
We were two big families, and given the populous wedding party, pictorial combinations were exponential in number.
Our trolleys, now running well behind schedules, took guests to the elegant reception at the Botanical Gardens, where prolonged toasting, ecstatic dancing and diverse dining awaited. Truthfully, for the dining, we mostly waited.
Nearly an hour after arriving, the macaroni and cheese with fresh vegetables showed up to appease the irritable grandchildren at our table. At least a half-hour later, the adults’ salad made appearances complete with petit organic greens, poached pear, spiced pecans, bleu cheese and sherry vinaigrette. Hardly the kind of robust roughage I’m used to.
By my calculation, the entrees didn’t arrive until 9:45 p.m. I would not have remembered my selected fare if the menu wsn’t affixed to the underside of my clear charger plate. Mindlessly, I dove into the “seared sole with a soy, ginger and wasabi glaze, accompanied by sesame tossed bok choy and mandarin-scallion lo mein noodles.” My palate was in unfamiliar territory, for sure!
There was not enough wedding cake to fill the gap, but I valiantly attempted, nevertheless.
Finally, but hardly full, we made our way to the gracious garden entrance to catch our shuttle. To my shock and consternation, what greeted us in the night’s light was a large white taco truck open for business. I thought to myself, “This has to be a mistake! Who let these people in here and at this time of night?” We were offered free tacos-to-go for the trolley ride home by an attending wedding coordinator. I would have nothing of it.
My stupidity was confirmed at the Sunday morning “Goodbye Brunch” at the luxurious “Mansions on Fifth,” as the taco truck had been secretly arranged by the bride’s stepfather to provide a hearty late-night “post-selected” entree for any meat-eaters among us. Too little, too late!
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at email@example.com