Some foods are easy to make for small groups, but when you scale them up to 75 portions it becomes tedious.
Students can be persistent and repetitive, they would always ask for grilled cheese, pizza and hamburgers, over and over. I’m not a big fan of making those dishes, they are more time consuming than you’d think when you do everything from scratch. Grilled cheese: make 10 loaves of bread, slice the bread, slice giant blocks of cheese, assemble sandwiches and grill the sandwiches on a big griddle in a poorly ventilated galley in the Caribbean. Maybe that’ll help paint a picture as to why I don’t like making grilled cheese sandwiches for 75 people, you can imagine why hamburgers are even worse. And it’s not even just 75, no starving teenager wants just one sandwich, they want another one.
Out of those three I think that pizza is the most special and easiest so I would only make it when someone would request it for their birthday… and if I liked them. When I did make it I wanted it to be a surprise, be as sneaky about it as I could be. I had a chalkboard in the galley, I’d write the day’s menu on it so I wouldn’t have to me asked 50 times a day what the coming meal was. When I would make pizza I’d put something crazy like “Rutabaga Pie” on the board, then they’d spend all day wondering what that was. The galley was down below and could be closed off from prying eyes so it was easy to make things in secret occasionally. I’d have one or two students who I knew could be trusted guard the door while I was topping the pizzas and then hide them away in the fridge until the last minute.
I really got the students good one time, they had no idea, even the students who were in the galley that day helping me with dishes were oblivious until I pulled the hot pies out of the oven. Everyone in the galley grabbed a tray and we paraded it up to the service area where everyone was waiting for dinner. Surprising people with food, seeing the joy in their face is something that I really love and teenagers always give great reactions.
Luckily I no longer cook for vast hordes of ravenous teenagers on a regular basis and I still enjoy making pizza. When I make pizza at home I have a slightly different approach, it’s more about the texture of the crust rather than making a lot of crust and a different selection of ingredients for toppings instead of just cheese and pepperoni.
Some of the toppings I went with this time, a classic margherita, sausage and mushroom, broccoli with lemon zest and pickled onions and anchovy, olive, capers and salami.