[Sidebar] The Worcester Phoenix
June 23 - 30, 2000

[Tales From Tritown]

Wedding bell blues, part two

Delia Ellis Bell finds another career

by Sally Cragin Warner

Illustration by Lennie Peterson

It's a bright summer day in Tritown, and Delia Ellis Bell the Partial Yankee (there was a questionable, great great grandmother) is weeding her garden. It's really the perfect job for her young neighbors, but they're busy with a lemonade stand at the town center. So Delia is squatting, nudging rootballs out of the pebble-strewn earth. Fortunately, the phone rings, saving her from having to face the tomato leaves filigreed with beetles. On the phone is $erena the Waitress, nervous and excited.

"We've got a job!" she exults. Delia wracks her brain -- she's had so many jobs recently -- part-time part-time town clerk, substitute teacher for fourth graders studying language arts (Mr. Parsons's wife had early labor so he took family leave before school ended), and, of course, antique-dealer, semi-Sunday organist at All Saints, and helper of those too ill or too demoralized to protest.

"Job?" Delia prompts.

"Our catering business!" $erena says. "We're going to do a wedding!"

At this, cold fingers grip Delia's heart. It had been a whim, really, one idle day last winter at Happy's Coffee & Qwik-Stop (30 kinds of doughnuts, 20 kinds of lottery tickets, one kind of coffee). Delia had complained about her marginal employment to $erena, a model of consistency (cutting hair at her aunts' beauty salon in the morning and waitressing in the afternoon). Of course, $erena had sold any number of items door-to-door as a child, and over the phone as an adult. Despite scrambling to make ends meet, the two women agreed on one major point. When a job was over, it was over. "I remember working for Judge Cronin." Delia had said. "You're constantly retyping stuff -- it never ended. Like having to go through the same cafeteria line over and over."

"At least I have some creativity in my life in the kitchen, sometimes," said $erena, who experimented with seasonal variations on the family doughnut recipe. These varied wildly -- for every "map-ple cream-filled doughnut" (a spring success that combined this year's maple syrup with last year's apple crop), there was a clunker, like the infamous "piney," which smelled like floor wax.

"What about cooking?" asked $erena.

"I hate cooking," she said.

"I know," $erena responded. "But you like hors d'oeuvres -- you're always bringing finger food to church supper and everyone likes it."

"Is that a business?" Delia asked.

"Why not?"

Then $erena promptly designed a business card:

Isn't It Tasty

Snacks & Catering

Weddings * Funerals * Special Occasions

DELIA HOLDS THE PHONE away from her ear. She remembers the business cards. Hadn't $erena taped a few to the window? Had Delia given any out? Oh well, how hard is a wedding? Hadn't she just played the organ at the joining of that nice young couple at All Faiths? That was a Wedding by Cheryl, and the catering was -- oh god! -- that was two trucks, four waiters, and a banquet table of chafing dishes steaming with delectables. And here she and $erena think they could do events with deviled eggs, a cookie cutter for ham sandwiches, and some sleight of  hand with cream cheese.

"Delia?" $erena continues excitedly. "It's summer -- everything's in season. And cheap! We can do an enormous veggie platter with a dip bowl made out of a purple cabbage. Maybe get some smoked salmon and capers. I love capers -- so salty. I have a recipe for homemade crackers. Wouldn't that be better than anything from a box?"

Delia's reluctance is beginning to melt. "Some kind of jellied salad," she suggests. "Just because it makes a table look so interesting. At that other wedding, the couple had two ice sculptures, including two swans whose heads were melting together. It was mutant -- but romantic."

"Wow," sighs $erena, who is beginning to regret (but not really) her own wedding-turned-elopement. "I don't know about ice sculpture. Maybe we can build a little igloo out of ice cubes!"

She and Delia convulse in giggles. "So get the details and call me back! I'm sure I've got some tuxedo vests from that play High Society we did down at the Little Theatre," says Delia, hanging up.

Yes, it's 80 degrees with humidity at 120 percent, and lighting the stove will be the death of her. But it is an interesting new job, and that's all that counts.

$ERENA FINDS OUT from Mrs. Piper, who appears to be the mother of the bride, that it would be a small gathering, perhaps 35 people, and plenty of finger food would be just the thing. Deviled eggs, a simple salad, a cheese platter, and plenty of fresh fruit sound splendid. The cake's taken care of already. As it turns out, Isn't It Tasty gets the job because Tritown's prevailing caterer, the chef and his staff of the Water Wheel, the most elegant restaurant in the region (cheddar cheese in an earthen crock, exposed beams), were highway robbers. Which Mrs. Piper is happy to relay to $erena and Delia when they go by Sunnyside Home to pick up the deposit. Sunnyside is a sprawling, refurbished boarding house that's one step beyond living alone; it offers private rooms for the residents and a shared dining hall. There's a night-nurse, Mr. Lane, a sweet and decorous old boy with a fine tonsure of gray hair. And he agrees with everything Mrs. Piper says.

He appeared to be the bridegroom?!

$erena looks helpless, Delia is frankly perplexed. But as they sit in Mrs. Piper's cozy room (antimacassars on the antimacassars, but a not-displeasing aroma of rosewater), the truth is slowly revealed. Mrs. Piper didn't have a daughter -- it's that she knew she ought to have a nice, big party, so no one at the home would feel left out. She and Mr. Lane were widowed long ago and were of sound mind, if frail body, and wish nothing more than to solemnize their arrangement, which would put an end to any talk around Sunnyside. How did they hear about Isn't It Tasty? The odd-job man overheard Mrs. Piper and remembered the business card at Happy's, where he always stops for doughnuts.

To their credit, $erena and Delia recover quickly and take careful notes. $erena even remembers to bring her receipt book, so they write out a proper contract. As they leave, the air outside seems brighter, fresher.

$erena sighs. "Isn't it romantic? All those years, and they finally find each other."

"I guess," says Delia, who was still intimidated by the prospect of cooking, period, let alone for a crowd. "All they want is deviled eggs, cucumber sandwiches with the seeds removed, and a cheese platter."

"Do those turkey roll-ups," $erena says. "Those are pretty bland."

"Okay," she agrees. "But if anyone talks about blenderizing this meal, I'm out of here, all right?"

"Deal," says $erena, who remembers you can freeze summer fruits in a Jell-O mold and let it float in a punch bowl, and it all looks really nice.

Delia & $erena's

E-Z Turkey Roll-ups

1 lb deli turkey

1 8 oz. container of cream cheese

1 bunch green onions

1 package (eight to 10) of soft tacos

Salt and pepper to taste

With the cream cheese at room temperature, spread on soft taco. Add a layer of turkey and a sprinkling of chopped green onion, seasoning. Roll up, wrap in plastic, refrigerate. Repeat until you run out of ingredients. After roll-ups are chilled, cut into rounds, spear with toothpicks, arrange on your nicest dish.

Sally Cragin Warner can be reached at aiolia@aol.com, when she's not chewing through print matter.

The Tales From Tritown archive

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