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  1. patti

    Dinner 2021

    A few dinners. Pan grilled catfish with lemon, dill, and grape tomatoes, zucchini, Mexican style street corn. Shrimp lo mein with snow peas, scallions, carrots, and red bell pepper. Chicken and steak tacos. The steak one was from some leftover steak and it wasn’t great. The dogs thoroughly enjoyed the steak pieces, though! For the second time in as many weeks, I made a mushroom galette. The filling on this one was much better than the first, with a combo of shiitake and cremini, onions, a head of roasted garlic, sherry, goat cheese and gruyere. Brisket sandwich and potato salad. The brisket was from Costco, frozen foods, with some added barbecue sauce and pickled onions, on brioche bun. Homemade potato salad. More mushrooms, this time in a mushroom and sausage stuffing, with sourdough bread. Served with a pork chop and baked sweet potato.
  2. Fried rice, rice pilaf, stuffed bell peppers, dirty rice.
  3. My sentiments exactly. In addition, the title of the program that was run most frequently was, “The Cajun Experience in Music, Food, and Dance.”
  4. The first few years that I ran the program, I had a wonderful venue to take the group to in a little town about twenty miles away. The family farmed rice and crawfish. One of the sons of the owner presented a slide show and a talk, explaining their operations and how rice and crawfish farming went together. This was followed by having boiled crawfish for lunch. It was really awesome, although in the fall, those groups were served crawfish etouffee, as it wasn’t crawfish season. I was pleasantly surprised by how many enjoyed the boiled crawfish experience, but thought it was funny when they asked where their utensils were. We don’t use utensils even for the corn and potatoes in the boil. All finger foods. The seasoning blend that was used had bunches of black peppercorns in it. One woman was aghast as she looked at her tray of crawfish. “Look at all the eyes looking back at me!” While it was true, that the crawfish eyes were still attached, a lot of those “eyes” were black peppercorns! 😂 Unfortunately, the patriarch of the operation passed away a few years after we started going there. I had no idea that his son was doing this only because his father wanted him to, and he stopped after his father’s death. His sister took over, but the lecture part was provided by someone else who wasn’t as good, and eventually it closed down altogether.
  5. I found out the folk life village had smothered rabbit on the menu one day, so I requested that my group get that, instead of the usual. So many times people commented on wanting authenticity, and smothered rabbit is beloved by many older Cajuns. Boy, was I wrong! Suddenly, authenticity meant nothing, as people were confronted with eating the Easter bunny. 😳😂 Lesson learned, on my part. Not sure they appreciated my little joke about the method of cooking smothered rabbit. “First you put the pillows over their little faces...”
  6. I never called anyone a moron or a Yankee! 😜 I try not to generalize to a group. But whaddaya mean about the view from up there? That southerners are morons?
  7. Yes, although not every dish was strictly something one would consider Cajun, the seasonings and styles were done in the way that most locals are used to. Unfortunately, Cajun meals are often carb heavy, and some of the little plate lunch places we went to didn’t have the kinds of salads that appealed to my group. One of my rules at the hotel for opening night dinner was absolutely no bread pudding, and no iceberg lettuce in the salads. The bread pudding rule was simply because so many restaurants served bread pudding as dessert that it aggravated at least a couple of people in every group, while some were thrilled with it. The thing was, each bread pudding was completely different, and many in the group would have a fun time rating and comparing them all. Typically, there were about three opportunities to have gumbo during the week. The first lunch included a cup of chicken and sausage gumbo as a starter. The second opportunity was at a dinner with a choice of c&s gumbo or a salad as a starter. The third opportunity was a cup of seafood gumbo as a starter. There were two crawfish etouffee opportunities, once as a choice at lunch, and another as a choice at a dinner. If that sounds like too much gumbo for y’all, as a native, I always had it at least twice. I don’t get tired of good gumbo. Most in the group were happy with it, as well. Rice dressing (aka dirty rice) was on the menu once, as was red beans and rice with smoked sausage. During our final meeting, I provided samples of boudin for them. Actually, eating some boudin was their passport to earning their Honorary Cajun Certificates. 😉 Kind of corny, but most enjoyed the ceremony, if not the actual boudin. Occasionally I would get an email from customer service telling me that someone had registered for a program and they didn’t like Cajun food. Was that going to be a problem? Um, well, yeah. And what do they mean when they say they don’t like Cajun food? They might be able to avoid specific Cajun dishes, but even if they choose meatloaf on a plate lunch, it will have been seasoned the way local people like things seasoned. Sorry for rambling.
  8. So am I depressing y'all with these posts? My original intent was to be lighthearted. Also, there were many delightful people on these programs. I wouldn't have been able to deal with the few challenging personalities as easily if they weren't mostly really go with the flow personalities. In every single program there were people who were appreciative, supportive, fun, validating, and positive.
  9. @Margaret Pilgrimmention entitled people. Speaking of which... There was a program that started in New Orleans (three nights), then on to Baton Rouge for two nights, and finally to Lafayette for four nights. This program was coordinated with the New Orleans Road Scholar and I didn’t meet the group until they arrived in Lafayette, when I took over. Hotel staff knew me, as I’d been hosting groups there for five years, but they weren’t necessarily familiar with the New Orleans group leader, or their bus driver. We were having dinner, and dessert was being served. I was seated with the New Orleans group leader and the bus driver and our table was near the others. The server knew me, and also knew not to serve me dessert. He served the other two at the table and moved on. I overheard a woman at the next table asking him why we were served before she was. He seemed puzzled. “Ma’am?” Her, in a very ugly tone of voice: “I want to know what your thought process was to serve THEM before you served ME.” Him: “Ma’am, I’m so sorry. I was just working my way around the room. Your table is next.” Her: Exasperated sigh. I know the other two people didn’t hear any of this as they were busy talking. I said nothing at the time, but the next day, I pulled her aside and explained that while our server knew who I was, and that I wasn’t taking dessert, he had no idea that the other two people weren’t just a part of the group. (I was giving her a chance to redeem herself, and hoping she’d be apologetic.) ”Oh, he had to know that was the bus driver! It was obvious! That’s ridiculous.” I didn’t respond and I walked away, but oh, the thoughts going through my head! First of all, he wasn’t wearing a uniform of any kind that would indicate he was a bus driver. What he was, was Black, so of course the server should have known that he should be served last! I was appalled. We’d call her a Karen these days. She never redeemed herself. While she seemed pleasant within her circle of friends, she was an unsmiling grump in any of our interactions. PS - I spoke to our server after the incident, concerned with the way he’d been spoken to. He was the nicest young man who was working his way through school. He told me he had developed a thick skin and wasn’t bothered by her tone at all.
  10. Ohhh, I like that. Social obtuseness. Yes! Agree on all points. PIA fo’ sho’.🤣
  11. She probably didn’t function very well in the real world. Might be the reason she still lived with a parent, required heavy sedative type meds, etc. Group travel was not for her.
  12. @Margaret PilgrimI’m going to respectfully disagree with your assessment. People who choose Road Scholar programs are people who’ve travelled extensively, both nationally and internationally. I was always the least travelled in any of my groups. That was one of the things I found funny. After telling me about a trip to Nepal, where they had to poop in a hole in the ground and seemed to appreciate the cultural difference, they might scream at me because the napkins at dinner were too small.* They were also well educated. It was rare to have someone in the program who did not have at least a bachelor’s degree, and many with higher degrees. Of course, there were exceptions to both of those. While the woman in the chef’s hat may have had a mental illness, I think she may have been on the autism spectrum, which doesn’t preclude her from also having some type of mental illness. She was definitely the most extremely different person in any of the programs. I do have empathy for her. I think most of the anecdotes are just about quirky people who’ve exhibited some bad behavior. *I forgot about the dinner napkin lady. One night at the hotel, instead of being served a plated dinner, there was a buffet. One of the servers mistakenly put out cocktail napkins instead of dinner napkins. While I thought it was an inconvenience, I didn’t think it was tragic, but one woman in the group went ballistic, and screamed ... no, really, SCREAMED at me because of the size of the napkins. First world problems, lady. Get a grip. She was nice all the rest of the week. They did bring out the correct dinner napkins, later. This was at a hotel that we only used for a year. There were other, bigger issues besides this one.
  13. I’ll just say that it was always interesting! From the ridiculous to the sublime.
  14. Speaking of eccentric people, I was puzzled by a socially awkward man in one of my programs. He didn’t interact much with others. During lectures, he took copious notes, focusing only on his notebook. I really thought he hadn’t enjoyed himself at all until the next year when he showed up to repeat the same program! This time around he even greeted me with a warm hug. Because he was a little friendlier than before, I felt I could ask him about his note taking. Was it a way to stay focused and shut out distractions? It was. I knew he was a college professor with a PhD, and highly intelligent. I wondered if he might be on the autism spectrum, specifically Asperger’s Syndrome. (You can take the girl out of the Speech and Language Pathologist field, but you can’t take the SLP out of the girl.) A perfect example of his lack of social skills and cues was what happened on pizza night. In a previous post, I mentioned that I ordered sampler pizzas with three kinds of pizza. Servers would place one giant sampler for every four people to share and sample each kind. I always ordered a couple of extra pizzas so that those with heartier appetites wouldn’t go hungry. This particular night, I was sitting across from our guy. As soon as the pizza was placed on the table, he reached out and scooped up all of one of the kinds of pizza, meaning the others wouldn’t have a chance to try that one. The people around him sort of gasped. I couldn’t very well ask him to put some back, as he’d scooped them up with his hands. He seemed completely unaware of his faux pas. I made light of it by reminding the others that a couple of extra pizzas would be coming out and they should be sure they had a chance to try all three varieties. He never noticed a thing. (I liked him, anyway. Really sweet guy.)
  15. patti

    Dinner 2021

    Oh my! That tart looks fabulous! Wow.
  16. Initially, I tried to stay away from using the company name, but it’s hard to keep saying educational travel company or whatever. Also, I no longer work for them. Also, also, I’m not calling them out. But maybe I should call them The Home Office™️?
  17. I wondered if the culinary school had been some type of vocational training, and the job at the zoo some kind of supervised position or sheltered workshop. I wasn’t around her long enough to get a real idea of her capabilities. Her meds list was long, with some heavy hitters. I later wondered if she’d taken some night time meds that made her really tired, but what do I know? Also, calling her dad to tell him she wanted to go home at age 63? But yeah, something not quite right.
  18. Once or twice a year we ran a program called, “Cooking in Cajun Country.” Mornings were spent in a university kitchen with six cooking stations. Each day featured a different chef or cooking instructor, and the group made their lunch using recipes provided by that day’s chef. The food budget was a little higher for that program, and it was the only program that our opening night dinner was out at a restaurant, instead of the hotel. In a previous post I explained a little about the group’s first meeting. In addition to dispersing program folders and name tags, I laid out the week for them, going through the itinerary, explaining how things were going to work, managing their expectations, if you will. I gave them some background info about the area, and some basic history of the people. After my presentation, introductions were made. Each person stood, told us their name, where they were from, and a little bit about themselves. Let me say that I’ve had plenty of eccentric people in my programs. Being eccentric doesn’t mean you won’t be a good participant, but sometimes there are signs. On this particular opening night, one woman walked in a little bit late, and headed for the back of the room. I tried to get her attention so I could give her the program folder, but she wouldn’t look at me and she didn’t seem to realize that I was talking to her. I had to walk over to her and touch her arm to get her to look up and receive the folder. I went through my opening night spiel, and then introductions began. It’s always fun to discover that someone who works for Road Scholar is part of the group at introduction time! Thanks for the heads up! 😮 (It was a very nice guy from the company, and his wife. They said they signed up on a whim, but of course I was thinking they were there to judge me). But they are not the reason for this story. One of the last introductions was made by our latecomer. She told us her name, and that she was from southern California. Did I forget to mention that she walked in wearing a chef’s hat? An important detail. With great pride she announced, “I went to culinary school, and then I got a job at the hamburger stand at the zoo.” She had a Valley Girl-esque speech pattern, and she was 63. Her intro was slightly strange and her occupation was atypical for the group, but it was a cooking program, after all. We left for dinner at 6:30, and the restaurant was about fifteen minutes away. It was only my second time using this restaurant. It was on the small side, but they were willing and able to take our group of 24, including me and the bus driver. I’d worked with them to create a menu that included a grilled sausage and boudin board appetizer, a choice of salad or gumbo, 3 mains to choose from, and dessert. I was excited for my group to try it. As we were led to our tables, our tocque wearer chose her spot. I quickly noticed that others were avoiding sitting next to her, so I moved in to sit near her, as did our driver (a college student who was one of my favorite drivers), and a married couple. We settled in and ordered. The married couple ordered drinks, as did many others in the group, which is pretty normal. I had my usual iced tea. Everything was cordial, there was lots of conversation, although not much from the chef. At one point, she turned to our driver, and asked what the wage was in Louisiana. He looked puzzled, so I asked if she meant minimum wage. “Yes. At the hamburger stand at the zoo, we make $8.00 an hour.” Near the end of the meal, but before dessert was served, she told me that she was tired and asked if the bus driver could take her back to the hotel. I told her no, but that we shouldn’t be too much longer. A few minutes later she asked if she could call a cab. I told her she could, but Lafayette cabs were notoriously slow, and we might leave on the bus before one could arrive. (This was 2014 and Lafayette didn’t have Uber until 2015.) Our driver offered to go and unlock the bus if she wanted to rest there, where it was quiet. She didn’t. She got up and left the table. I assumed it was to visit the ladies room, but she’d actually gone to the bar, though not to get a drink. I think maybe to get away from the group. A little later she returned to where the group was sitting, and shouted, “I’m going home! I told you I was sick and you wouldn’t take me back to the hotel! I gave you two chances!” And then she went back to her seat at the bar. I was completely shocked. I asked the couple and the driver, “Did she say she was sick? I thought she said tired. I’d have handled it differently if she’d said she was sick.” They assured me she’d never said she was sick. I went to the bar. “I’m so sorry. I thought you were just tired. The driver is starting the bus now,” and I touched her arm to reassure her. She snatched her arm away and said, “It’s too late! You are harassing me and I’m calling the police!” I returned to the group and sat down, trying to figure out how I was going to reason with her. A few minutes later I saw that she was now outside, pacing around the parking lot. I decided to go outside and try again. The man who’d been sitting with us with his wife decided he’d come, too. Surprisingly, just as we started trying to calm her down, a taxi appeared. Fastest ever in Lafayette history. My helper got her into the cab, told her to go get some rest at the hotel, and it would all be better tomorrow, and when she started arguing with the cabbie about price, he even paid the cabbie. And then the police arrived. She really had called them! She jumped out of the cab and ran over to the officer just as he was getting out of his vehicle. She pointed at me and shouted, “She’s drunk! And she is not looking out for my safety!” WTH? I was not expecting that. I moved forward, wanting to defend myself, but the police officer held up his hand for me to stop. I did. He wanted to hear her side. He and his partner listened, and at one point I heard them ask her how much SHE’D had to drink. Then they put her in the cab and sent her on her way. I introduced myself, told them who I worked for and why we were there, and asked them what else they needed from me. They both laughed. “Nothing. Have a good night.” By now, all of my group was outside and filing into the bus. I had to go back into the restaurant and check over the bill and pay. I was dazed and confused. I’m pretty sure I didn’t check the math. The bus was abuzz when I got back on. At first, I was just silent, trying to process what had happened. I recall the bus driver asking me to look at how close he was to something, and I’m pretty sure I said it was fine, without actually seeing anything. 😂 I had to collect myself and become a leader again and offer some explanation about what had taken place. A few had been close enough to hear some of it, and they’d already spread the word. I’d also completely forgotten that someone from the Road Scholar office was on the program. Great time to be judged! I knew I’d have to call both my departmental head at the university as well as the after hours number for Road Scholar to report the incident. I made the call around 9:00 pm, and they returned the call at 2:00 am. I never did figure out why they waited till 2:00 am to call me back, but that’s beside the point. I explained what had happened, and just as I started to make it clear that I had not been drinking, she stopped me. “Patti, we know your reputation as coordinator and group leader. You don’t have to defend yourself. If you want us to, we can make arrangements for her return home tomorrow. Or, you could see if she feels better in the morning and apologizes for her behavior.” I chose the former. The next morning, as I was heading to breakfast, someone from the hotel stopped me to let me know there was someone looking for me in the breakfast room. And there she was, now dressed in full chef regalia, from her head down to her toes. “I changed my mind! I’m staying. I called my dad and he said I should stick it out!” “No, you are not staying. You called the police and lied and said I was drunk. Road Scholar is making the arrangements for your flight home right now.” She looked sad, but did not protest. At that moment Road Scholar called my cell to ask a couple of questions, and then asked me to put her on the phone. “Patti doesn’t even care about me, all she cares about is her job.” 🙄 My boss from the university showed up at the hotel about this time to see how things were going. She got an assignment from Road Scholar to go to the airport and spy on our guest to make sure she actually got on the plane! The group was very happy with the decision to send her home. They were concerned about who was going to have to work with her, since they break into teams to work at the six stations. In the end, I think it was good that RS had a representative there who saw it all unfold and how I handled it. After this initial glitch, we had a great time that week. And that is the story of the one time I sent someone home from a program.
  19. Speaking of childish behavior, this one is about a retired CEO. An oil industry executive. I buy large bags of these: Instead of ordering dessert after the pizza meal, I would hand out gallon sized zip lock bags of chocolate and tell everyone to take a few and pass them down. With large groups there were a couple of zip lock bags. One night in a small group of about fifteen people, a man in the group pulled me aside after dinner was over. He complained (read: whined) that the people at the other end of the table kept the candy too long and it was awhile before he got any. Like a petulant child. Sigh. The next day, on a field trip, I pulled the bag of candy out of my bag, and handed it to him. “You get to be first, today!” He seemed very happy. Haha. A man who headed a company and who could afford to buy much better chocolate than that, and in great quantities, pouted because he was last to get candy! People amaze me. 😂 In another program, as I was collecting the bags of candy from the tables, a woman grabbed a bag out of my hands and said, “I’ll take that! I want to make sure people have some for tomorrow.” Never saw that bag of chocolate again. The next day, I pulled the other bag of candy out of my bag to pass around on the bus. She wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. 🤨
  20. @blue_dolphinWhen you’re in it, you can’t always laugh, although occasionally I would remind myself that it was going to make a good story. The people in my department looked forward to my return from a program, so they could hear the latest.
  21. patti

    Dinner 2021

    Great review! Looks like a stunning meal.
  22. There were people in my groups like you, who would let me know they would self-select with regard to gluten. I was always grateful for this attitude! Part of the problem was that the kitchen staffs for the first dinner of the program and the first lunch of the program needed me to specify ahead of time if anyone needed a gluten-free meal. I could deal with the other meals once the program began. Invariably, someone specified a gluten free diet and then balked when they saw what other people had and wanted that. At the hotel it wasn’t as big of a problem. At the folk life village for lunch the next day, the staff would get mad at me if they’d made an alternate meal and then the person wanted to eat the other stuff, like gumbo. I finally learned I needed to call people ahead of time and ask them if they would be eating gumbo and the like. But when I had a bunch of programs back to back, it was difficult to find the time.
  23. Of those of you who aren’t familiar with hamburger steaks, do you see the humor in this question? We’re all learning here! Y’all confirmed my thought that the dish, or at least the name, is regional. Speaking for myself, when I travel to other areas of the country, it’s not like I’m looking for hamburger steak on the menus, so I wouldn’t even notice that it’s not there. On the topic of terminology: Around here, we have meatball stew and chicken stew, and neither of those dishes is like other stews that might have carrots and potatoes, or any substantial amount of vegetables. Meatball stew is made by browning seasoned meatballs, making a roux, adding the trinity and stock, or even water, and simmering. You want a brown gravy. Served over rice. Chicken stew is similar. We also call it smothered chicken or even chicken fricassee. People eat smothered rabbit, and smothered pork chops, smothered round steak. All braised dishes served over rice, but not all made with a roux. Dishes that can be made relatively inexpensively to feed a family. Cajun food was poor people food. Rustic, one pot, home cooking.
  24. Maybe I need to change the title of the thread to, “Feeding People with Challenging Personalities,” because not all of the stories are about people with special dietary needs. We were on a field trip to a folk life village. After a guided tour, the group had lunch at a small restaurant on-site. That day, the restaurant ran out of biscuits before my entire group was served. The last four or five people received some other bread item, but I don’t recall what it was. One lady in the group called me over and said she really wanted a biscuit. I told her the kitchen was out of biscuits. “I want my biscuit.” Her friend nervously offered to share her biscuit. “I want my own biscuit.” The friend offered her the entire biscuit, insisting that she have it. Nope. The server walked up and apologized. “Ma’am, I’m so sorry. We had an unexpected group who came in for lunch earlier, and we’re out of biscuits.” “I. WANT. MY. BISCUIT!” The worst part is, she was rewarded for her embarrassing behavior. A few minutes later, the server came back out and said if we could wait a little while, they’d just put a batch in the oven, and anyone who’d missed out on a biscuit could have one. I hope she looks back on her childish behavior with utter shame. But they did have damn good biscuits.
  25. Yes, like @Margaret Pilgrimsaid. When I make them, they are made of ground beef and slightly larger than a burger patty and topped with some kind of brown gravy or sauce and they can be topped with grilled onions, mushrooms and maybe cheese. No fillers or anything. ETA: Here is one I posted in the dinner thread a few months ago. Unfortunately, the toppings hide it!
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