Part Two of Designing our Menu

Sorry for the non-creative title. I’ve been invaded by some kind of flu bug and it has debilitated my brain a bit.

A few days ago I started talking about our desire to build a local/organic menu. Here are the meals that will round out our weekend.

Cocktail Hour Saturday:
Sources: Veggies and Dip, Cheese, Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato, Pita and Hummus, Fresh Fruit, Bruschetta

Of all the meals, the cocktail hour menu was the one that departed furthest from Indian Head’s initial suggestions. We moved from a microwaved/fried meaty hot menu towards a fresh cool light menu. Given the taco lunch and potential heat of august we thought this was a good call. We want people up and dancing, not down and digesting. It also helped bring down the cost of the menu and make it more local.

Sat Dinner
Sources: Baked Ziti with Spinach, Carved Meat, Yuengling, Roasted Summer Veg, Rice and Beans, Dinner Rolls, Mixed Greens, Roasted Winter Veg Unpictured: Green Beans Almondine (darn you flu-brain).

For Saturday’s dinner we wanted to provide one main meat dish and lots of vegetarian sides to choose from. We’re not sure whether to do beef or pork yet (have a preference? please let us know!), but in either case the meat will be free-range-grass-fed-organic and come to us from a local butcher. We haven’t made all of the alcohol decisions for the weekend, but definitely know that we will have Yuengling available with dinner (PA pride!).

Sunday Buffet:Sources: Scrambled Eggs, Beautiful Vermont Maple Syrup, Pancakes with berries, Homefries

We’ll finish off the weekend with Sunday brunch. By then, hopefully, everyone will be exhausted and stuffed.

Looking at our menu, and how full it is, its hard to imagine that we had to leave some things out. But just like how we had to make tough choices when coming up with our financial budget, we also had to make tough choices in our food-miles budget. Some of the big ticket items on our food mile list were: exotic fruits like bananas, mangos, and kiwi fruit; imported gourmet cheeses; coffee; tea; hot chocolate; asparagus; imported wine; rice; chickpeas for hummus; dried beans; and spices.

When possible, we switched these items for their local/ in-season counterparts. Melons and berries got swapped in for bananas and mangos, asparagus got traded in for green beans, gourmet cheeses were nixed for local varieties (like Cabot yummm…). We will try to stash a few bottles of NZ wine in our luggage, but other wines will come from Europe (which actually have a smaller eco-footprint than Californian wines for us East-Coasters).

There are some things that are important to us and will need to come from far away, no matter what. For these items, like coffee, hot chocolate, rice, beans, and spices, we will be sure to choose fair trade producers from as local as possible.

At some point I will do a calculation on the total food miles for our weekend wedding and convert that into carbon emissions produced, but since we don’t know the exact suppliers for most things, its a bit early for all that yet. Plus, honestly, I don’t think my flu brain would allow for it at the moment. But as far as I can tell about 90% of the food served will come from within the northeastern U.S. (Woo hoo!!).

Given the price of organic food (due to too many fair and unfair reasons to list here), it might seem like an organic local menu isn’t feasible on a shoe-string budget. But, we are paying the same price per head with our new menu, as we we would have with Indian Head’s original proposed menu. There are a few ways we made this possible:

1. Our menu is in-season. Almost all of our fresh fruit and veggies will come from local farms and markets. We have planned on cooking things that are generally in surplus in August in our region, which means lower prices.

2. Flexibility. Our cook is flexible. If a certain fresh item isn’t available in abundance in August, he is willing to switch to another local item, rather than importing the original item. This keeps costs low.

3. Hot breakfasts and hot hors d’oeuvres were substituted with cold items.

4. We planned our meals with creative ways to use leftovers in mind. Chili and salad bar from friday will become taco bar on Saturday.

5. We are forming a close relationship with our caterer and are offering to support him in researching local providers for specific items.

O.K., I’ve talked far too much about this for the moment (can you tell we love our jobs!). Would love to hear any suggestions for our menu, especially about the beef or pork toss-up.

Food- Creating an Eco-Friendly Menu

Although Mr. Veggie and I don’t agree on everything (really?), we did have a very sure vision of what we wanted in regards to our wedding menu.

Food is a big deal to us. On a scale of “happily apathetic” to “crazily vigilant”, we probably are just about a hair shy of the “c-v” mark, passionately vigilant perhaps? Food-issues including organics, growing, subsidies, transportation, ethical production models, the corporatization of food, packaging, and waste (to name a few) impact our every-day decisions. By no means do we do everything right. I do have a soft spot for Cheez-Its, which thankfully are not sold in New Zealand, because I honestly cannot resist their awesome deliciousness. But, we are organic veggie farmers and growing food is a big part of our life.

In our lovey-dovey first dating bliss, we had envisioned growing all of the food for our wedding, including raising any animals we might want for meat. That was before we started planning a wedding half-way around the world. I’m pretty sure they don’t allow halves of cows in checked baggage, and I’m not carrying that sucker on, so growing our own food is a bit out of the question. As they say though, when one door shuts…

Having realized that our geographic predicament prohibits us from growing our own menu, we became committed to supporting local organic farmers in the area where we are getting married. Based on this decision, we chose to hold our wedding in August, a time when there is an abundance of local produce.

Even though August is a time of abundance, there are certain things that simply don’t grow in the northeastern U.S., so our goal in designing the menu was to minimize or eliminate the use of these things, and swap them for more local options. Also, while we are not vegetarian, we eat a mostly vegetarian diet (meat about once a month), and are strictly opposed to factory farmed meat. We wanted the menu to reflect this. We also understand that while eating sprouts and hummus are part of our everyday diet, for some people this will be a very unique food experience, and we want our guests to enjoy the food too. So the goals became, local, mostly veggie, and super yummy. Luckily, Mike the cook, from Indian Head Camp, was more than willing to work with us to make our vision a reality.

We started with the standard menu that Indian Head uses for weekend events (That’s right our wedding takes place over the course of an entire weekend. That’s a lot of meals to plan out). Keep in mind that Indian Head is a camp, and their standard menu is for school, camp, and conference groups.

Here’s what we began with:

That menu was really nice, but didn’t reflect us. At all. So, we sent some suggestions, did some research into local and regional companies, and this is what we ended up with:

Thursday Night:

We all know that my home state has the best pizza ever in the whole wide world. Let’s hope we can find a local pizza shop that can come close to matching the skills of their garden state counterparts, because we will have about 30 close friends and family that will be working their butts off all day to get everything set up. And they’re gonna be hun-gry.

We’ve opted out of hot breakfasts all together. Hot coffee for Mr. Veggie, definitely, but with all the other food we’re going to have, hot breakfast seemed like overkill. So we’re going with yogurt, fruit, granola, and bagels with cream cheese. Breakfast is a meal that generally contains a lot of non-local products (think bananas, spices, cocoa, coffee, tea). We’ve chosen to say no to bananas, but yes to coffee and hot chocolate. Priorities.

Lunch Friday:

We’ve nixed the more traditional sandwich board, because of the many processed meat products, and gone with egg salad, tuna salad, and grilled cheese. We’ll also have an amped up salad bar with all the traditional fare, plus sprouts and Annie’s Organic dressings, and tomato soup. Who doesn’t love grilled cheese and tomato soup?

Dinner Friday:

Chili Cookoff and microbrew taste-test. We’re sending out a call for chili and microbrew competitors with our invites. Hopefully people will get into it and bring a batch of chili with them. If not, looks like we’ll be eating a lot of corn bread and corn on the cob.

Lunch Saturday:

Sources: Top: Left, Right; Bottom

Taco Bar. We will make use of the leftover chili from Friday night (if there is any!) and have a taco bar. Easy. Delicious. Fun for all ages.

All those food pictures are making me hungry. Time to go cook some dinner. In my next post I’ll walk you through the rest of the weekend’s food choices and talk a bit about the rationale behind the choices. I’ll also talk about about the food-miles associated with our choices and how all of this has affected our budget.

What do you think so far? Were there certain must-haves on your menu? Would you mind eating vegetarian for a weekend?

Dressing the Ladies

Part of having a low eco-footprint wedding was figuring out what to do about dresses for our four bridesmaids, groomsmaid, and three moms of honor.

Here is the ideal situation as it played out in my head:
I send out an email inviting all of the veggie sisters to be bridesmaids. I send them a brief email explaining the concept of mismatched bridesmaids dresses. They talk amongst themselves, the groomsmaid, and the veggie moms and discover that all of them already own dresses made from eco-friendly materials and purchased from companies that support fair trade practices. And what luck! These dresses happen to be in colors that don’t clash with each other and fall within our wedding color scheme. On our big day they pull said dresses out of their closets. They look gorgeous. Since the dresses are already a part of their clothing artillery, they are used many more times and loved thoroughly.

Reality Check:
I email the veggie sisters giving a less-than-clear idea of what I am looking for. They talk amongst themselves and finally tell my mom that they have no idea what I want. We go back and forth. I make several inspiration boards that include yellow and brown mismatching dresses. After several email and phone conversations my sisters remind me that we are all very pale, and my idea of yellow and brown dresses eventually morphs into earthtones, and then into taupe/grey. Oldest Veggie Sis Kale decides that I am entirely too laid back about the whole affair, takes charge, makes a powerpoint with dress options, and gives the girls a kick in the butt. They all (including the veggie moms) run to their nearest mall or favorite online store and purchase new dresses.

To be fair, they all had a hearty dig through their closets before heading out to purchase something new, and have all assured me that they will definitely reuse the dresses they bought. So far, this is how it stands with one mom, one groomsmaid, and one veggie sis still yet to purchase their dresses.

Bridesmaids:Sources: Veggie Sis Eggplant: J. Crew, Veggie Sis Kale: Calypso, Veggie Sis Tomato: Anthropologie

Moms of Honor:

Sources: FMIL Veggie: Nordstrom’s, Momma Veggie: Lord and Taylor

I don’t feel great about the eco impact of this part of our wedding, but I am happy with their choices and am glad that they’ve all found dresses that they will use again. What do you think? What direction should I steer my last three ladies in to pull the look together?

Equinox Flower Thoughts

We’re quickly approaching the equinox, which for us means that its getting harder and harder to get out of bed and go for a surf in the chilly mornings, but for those of you on the other side of the world, it means spring is coming! Which means, I really need to start thinking about what kind of flowers I want. Pronto.

We still have 5 months until the wedding, why so early? Because we are hoping that our talented friends and family will be able to grow us all of the flowers we need for the wedding. Which means said flowers need to be planted. Which means this veggie farmer needs to start thinking blooms.

Looking back I see that I went about this process in the complete wrong order. You see I scoped out ideas, fell in love with certain flowers, and then figured out what they were called and when they were in season. This whole process involved some mild heartbreak when I found out that peonies and ranunculus (two of my faves) will definitely not be in bloom in the Eastern U.S. in August. I probably should’ve found a list of what is in bloom, then picked some off of that that I loved. Oh well… live and learn.

Here were the inspiration for my flower choices: (You knew I’d have an inspiration board or two for you).
Sources: Top: Left, Center, Right; Middle: Left, Left-Center, Right-Center, Right; Bottom: Left, Center, Right

Sources: Top: Left, Center, Right; Middle: Left, Center; Bottom: Left, Center, Right

And here are the blooms that are involved in making these dreams come true:
Sources: Phlox, Brassica, Aster, Craspedia, Chrysanthemum, Zinnia, Peony, Dahlia, Poppy, Garlic Scape, Ranunculus

Yep, included in that list are brassica (cabbage) and garlic flowers. What would a veggie wedding be without some veggie blooms?

Luckily after researching what is in bloom, almost all of these are possible. We’ll probably need to say goodbye to peony and ranunculus, but I’m still holding out hope for late blooming varieties that might be grown by our guests coming from Maine and New Hampshire. Garlic scapes are also an early summer flower, but here’s hoping that one of our creative friends finds a way to set some back (Piling snow on top of the garlic bed? Planting them in shade?).

There are some drawbacks to our approach to flowers. Will we know ahead of time what our centerpieces and bouquets will look like? No. Will we have to spend time the day of putting it all together? Yes. Will I have strict creative control over how it all turns out? No. But we’re O.K. with all that. For us, the upsides: no money spent, the love of our friends and family going into our big day, and a low carbon footprint, definitely outweigh all the drawbacks.

How did you decide on which flowers you wanted to be included in your wedding? Are you including any non-traditional flowers?

Finally! (A Dress Arrival Photo Essay)

It’s finally here. No words could do justice to such a happy day. OK, maybe a few words here and there.

Out of the box and onto the bed.

Hmm… How does this thing work?

It fits!

Put the hair up, toss on a headband. What do you think ladies?

Wait what’s this?

Ooh a train. A really long train.
A little big in the boobies. (I’ve actually never had that problem before).

Try to ignore the silly face, ridiculous looking collar-bones, and absurd tan lines (how can I have tan lines and be the whitest girl ever at the same time?). Let’s focus on how the dress will look once it’s taken in a bit on the sides.
Whoah. Who is that lady looking all elegant wearing a wedding dress?

Oh right. It’s me. I’m getting married!!

Not Proud- But the Tears Came Out

I’m not a crier. I mean I cry when something really sad happens, like when watching “Once Were Warriors” (best NZ film ever, rent it), but I don’t cry in front of strangers. And I definitely don’t cry, pout, or whine to get what I want. I used to think I was morally opposed to all that, something to do with being a strong independent woman, and earning things of my own accord. Yeah. About that.

On Friday I got a letter in the mail from the lovely people at customs. Like some of you suggested in my last post, they were holding my dress for an import duty. I kind of had a feeling that this was what was happening, but I was in denial. Sure enough when I opened the letter there were the famous words:

“We are writing in regards to a package that has been sent to you from overseas”… blah bah blah… something about a fee… and then the total… $315.00. WHAT!!! $315.00?!?!?

Granted, that is kiwi dollars, but seriously? That’s about half of what I paid for my dress.

Apparently they had determined that my thrice-used dress was worth over $1,000 kiwi, which made it subject to an import duty of 10% and then because it was clothing it was subject to Goods and Services Tax of 12.5%, and then there was a fee for having them open the box and of course tax on the cost of that fee. I freaked out a little.

After 2 hours of talking to two different very unfriendly and unhelpful customs officers at the national call center, one who referred me to a fake local office that didn’t exist, and another who wanted me to hire a customs broker, I finally got the number to a smaller somewhat local branch of customs. At this point I was feeling quite frustrated, a bit sad, and just overall defeated. I was thinking about a conversation I had with Mr. Veggie that morning about our budget and how important it was to stick to it. I was thinking about how many hours of work $315.00 would equal. I was thinking about how it had been almost 4 weeks since my dress got sent out and how many times I had called the post office to see if it was in. I’m not proud of my next move.

Customs officer Andrew picked up after about the 15th ring:

Andrew: NZ Customs how can I help you?

Veggie: (sob)

Andrew: Um, I’m sorry, I couldn’t understand that.

Veggie: (sob) Bride. (sob) Wedding dress. (sob) Fee. (sob) Can’t afford.

Andrew: Oh, I’m so sorry let me see what I can do.

Ten minutes later my dress was through customs and on its way to my door. Supposedly it will arrive on Monday. One step forward for my wedding dress… one step backwards for women’s lib struggles worldwide.

Have you pulled out the bride card to get what you want? Or even worse the ultimate combo of crying bride?

Patience Is Not My Strong Suit

Why the bleep isn’t my dress here yet? As previously mentioned, the lovely Adriana sent it out ages ago. And according to the USPS package tracker (which I may have checked, oh I don’t know, about 1,000 times this week) here is the status:

There are a few weird things about this:

#1- Why did it take 5 days for my dress to get from Miami to Auckland? I mean I’m assuming it went “por avion” because a boat definitely would need to depart from a west coast port, not Miami. Unless of course they went the scenic route. And in that case, kudos to that ship captain for hauling butt and circumnavigating the globe in 5 days. But honestly 5 days to fly to New Zealand?

#2- What reason could there be for my dress to have to enter customs twice? A long history of wedding dress drug trafficking? Oh, I guess so. Fair enough. Check it twice.

#3- Even if you do need to be extra careful to ward off drunk trafficking bride-zillas, how long could it possibly take for a dress to get through customs? They’ve had it for NINE days!

I’m freaking out here! Of course there’s absolutely no reason for me to freak out, I have tons of time to do alterations, and I could actually call customs to see what’s up. But all the same, the anticipation and waiting is driving me nuts.