Family Magazine

Degustation for Six

By Sherwoods
A few months ago Brandon got a phone call at work.  "So this is going to be really great.  We're going to have lots of people, and it will be fantastic," a German-accented voice told him without any introduction.  After a few minutes of backtracking in the Jimmy's Boa style, Brandon was able to figure out that he was being asked to round up some Americans for a taste test of baked goods.
When people (all three of them) ask what Brandon does, I usually scratch my head and helpfully answer "...stuff?  With businesses?" if they're looking for something more in depth than 'diplomat.'  That stuff varies widely - just a few days ago he visited a clean room, a few months ago he helped with a promotional event for a window company, and he gets to eat lunch at a nice hotel every month to meet with an American business group.  And now he can put 'taste tester' on his list of accomplishments for his EER.
Unfortunately he didn't get as much notice as he would have liked and the scheduling got confused, so in the end this great event with lots of people ended up being six: me, Brandon, a friend from the mission, Kathleen, Sophia, and Edwin.  It almost included Joseph, but my housekeeper showed up just as we were walking out the door and rescued him.
When I thought of taste test, I imagined a room with food.  Our German friend, however, had other ideas.  We were all ushered into a room filled with business men looking very important and not at all used to dealing with three very wiggly children wanting to climb over the couches, tap on the glass of the fish tank, point out the horses in a tapestry, ask when we were going to get some food, talk loudly, occasionally quarrel with each other, and generally act like small children that have no business being at what was looking to be a big event after all.  A nice secretary tried to make it better by handing large, caramel-filled chocolates around, which of course just made everything messier.  
After a nice long explanation of the company and its goals working here in Azerbaijan, the children were relieved to get on with the promised doughnuts and cookies.  Thankfully there was enough noise to cover Edwin's "Oh good! The talk is over!" and "Excuse me.  I passed gas," as everyone headed out.
Degustation for six
We all got to put on hats, shoe covers, shirts (including small ones cut down especially for children.  Thank heaven everyone here loves children) before getting a tour of the factory.  I have a secret love of factories and could have watched the roll-cake roller for at least an hour more than we got.  Brandon had flashbacks of hauling pans of lasagna noodles for ten hours a day.
Degustation for six
After the tour we got down to the business at hand: food tasting.
Degustation for six
When Brandon first brought up the event, I was excited.  "You mean they want me to come and taste forty-five different baked goods?  I can do that!"  They kids were excited too because what child doesn't dream of being allowed to eat as much cake, cookies, pastries, doughnuts, brownies, and pie as they want?  
It started off well with the breads.  We got a bite of rye, 50% rye, whole wheat, pretzels, hot dog buns, hamburger buns, Texas toast, rolls, white bread, and about five other types.  That sounds like fun in theory, but after four or five breads, the crumbs all start feeling the same, and the taste is... okay.
The children had lost interest by the time we got to 50% rye, and wandered  down to a table that looked much more promising: the dessert table.  They were followed by their usual fan club/group of nervous adults and got fed doughnuts, brownies, cheesecake brownies, crumb cake, plum cake, chocolate pastries, nut-chocolate pastries, and apple pastries before they gave up and called it quits.
Degustation for six
I, however, did not get to call it quits before tasting everything the children had plus about seven or eight more things.  I think I might have extrapolated the taste of the chocolate pastry from the taste of the chocolate-nut pastry and marked my sheet accordingly.  Maybe.  
I love dessert.  A lot.  A whole lot.  My Sunday assignment as a teenager was to make dessert for my family.  In college I would bake three cakes every Sunday and often not eat any dinner except cake scraps, and maybe have cake for lunch the next day.  I never turn down dessert when I go out to eat because I'm too full - it's usually how I judge restaurants.  
But by the end when I had to taste one more type of cake, I thought that there might actually be too much of a good thing.  I had never imagined that eating desserts baked (and cleaned up) by someone else that I didn't have to pay for could be so painful.  I could feel the diabetes threatening by my last bite.
At the end when the helpful staff loaded up several bags and boxes of goodies to take home, I told Brandon to distribute them among people at his office because I didn't want to see another baked good for at least a day or two.  It really is possible to have too much of a good thing.  I think we might have have just salad for dinner that night.
And so I have attended yet another strange experience brought to me by life as a diplomat.  Taste test food intended for thousands of American recipients?  Sure, I can do that!  Act like I'm classy and belong with the stiletto heel crowd who drink coffee out of tiny cups?  Definitely me.  Have a whole taste test with distinguished visitors engineered just for my family  Of course.  Because we're that important.
Usually my life is normal - I take care of children, change diapers, and feed my family - just like any other American housewife mother of four.  But every now and then, we like to spice it up a little with something different.  Or sugar it.  Whichever.

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