GETTING IT RIGHT: Catering is important for a mixed British, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Irish and Caribbean crowd
ORGANISING MY daughter’s christening, which is essentially a party for a mixture of very British, very African (Nigerian and Ghanaian), very Irish and very British-African Caribbean people is proving to be significantly tougher and more stressful than I could ever have bargained for.
So, should you find yourself in such a situation, I’ve listed a series of pitfalls to consider on the rocky roads ahead. Consider it a public service.
Parental risk: You meticulously design the invitation and cordially request that everyone RSVPs. You have enough food and drink (and tolerance) for an exact number of people. All seats are accounted for and named. You have perfectly planned your work and now intend to work your plan.
Then mum decides it would be a great idea to make 50 photocopies of the invitation and send them to her friends. Who in turn feel the need to bring their friends along, and so on. The party you arranged for 120 people now has an extra 200 ‘guests’ all wanting to be fed, hydrated with alcohol and entertained.
The venue will not understand: Like all black people who have taken on The Man and won and therefore ‘made it’ in life you want to let it show. In fact you want to rub it in. So you book a venue that speaks to your ‘prestige’. When you call them up and say you want to have a christening reception they are thinking “lovely peaceful event – cucumber sandwiches, crumpets and tea. Perhaps they may want to play a little Beethoven as backing music”.
Little do they know that ‘christening’ really means chin-chin, rice, stew, plantain and gizzard washed down with Nigerian Guinness with the Best of Busta Rhymes & Wiz Kid blazing through the speakers at the highest possible pitch. Sooner or later you and the venue will bump heads.
Food & catering: How many eateries do you know that are capable of excellently catering a mixed British, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Irish and Caribbean buffet to a tight budget?
Discovering wholesale: Just when you thought the party was going to bankrupt you one of your learned aunts calls you a “foolish boy” for planning to buy drinks and snacks at high end supermarkets. So she takes you to one of the wholesale outlets and your life is changed forever. The savings you make at these bargain outlets render you as excited as Kwame Nkrumah dancing with Queen Elizabeth II.
Selecting the right DJ: How many DJs do you know who are able to excellently mix Afrobeats, Gaelic music, soulful hip-hop, New Jack Swing, funky house, Sir Shina Peters and Tom Petty?
Bewildering white people: The Candy dance, ‘spraying’ (i.e. throwing money – usually single dollar bills – at the celebrants), Kelewele (a mixture of gizzard, plantain and a peppery sauce), Ayamase (don’t ask, don’t tell), 82-year-old uncle who will give you a run for your money on the dance floor… some of the many things that white friends and family will find bewildering.
Religion: Face it - God enjoys Obama levels of approval in the black community yet when it comes to some white folk, God is as popular as bangers and mash at a Muslim wedding (or, some would say, as popular as David Lammy at a Bernie Grant memorial). So Born-Again Aunty has been asked to say the opening prayer.
Deep down in your heart you know she will launch into a 15 minute Holy Ghost fuelled trance on many topics. She may even start speaking in tongues. Whilst half of the room is full of prayer with aunty, the other half of the room is hoping Richard Dawkins walks through the door to provide a little balance.
The Billy Carters in your family: Billy Carter was the redneck less than socially adept brother of former US President Jimmy Carter. Lovable yet a consistent source of embarrassment to his fantastically important brother. An example of his shenanigans: he once urinated on an airplane runway in full gaze of the media and dignitaries. You know your cousin who thinks it’s perfectly normal and socially acceptable to whip out his mobile phone at a fine dining eatery and just play Tupac’s greatest hits for everyone to hear? How about your uncle with famous wandering hands who likes to drink that little bit too much and tends to forget that he is a grown-up man? Well they are your own personal Billy Carters: lovable yet a source of utter embarrassment. Still, you have to invite them: they’re family.
Seating arrangements: Messing this up can mess your life up. You really do not want to sit Aunty ‘Traditional African Values’ beside your left-wing gay-rights crusader mate.
Stress: a concept you will truly understand and appreciate once you are knee deep in arrangements.
Lessons learned for next time: hire an event organiser.
But how many event organisers do you know who could organise something that would please a very British, a very African, a very Irish and a very British-African-Caribbean crowd?
Fingers crossed it all goes well.
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