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Double wrapping and the hapless kosher guest

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I assume that others on this list find themselves, more or less frequently, at a banquet, business diner or other meal where they, perhaps the lone kosher diner, are confronted with a hot meal double wrapped in an enormous volume of plastic or foil.

Problems:

1. You have to puncture the plastic, the new microwaveable plastics do not just tear. You more or less have to attack them with lethal weapon.

2. As you tear the foil juices may spurt out onto the lap or an important client, or your boss.

4. What are you supposed to do with the mountain of foil and plastic, often dripping with juices?

4. The food usually doesn't taste very good after being wrapped in plastic and zapped.

This is not the chef's fault. Microwave ovens vary. Three minutes in the chef's microwave may not be the same as three minutes in the microwave at the banquet hotel.

I actually have a proposal. It won't work in situations where an establishment keeps a freezer stocked with frozen kosher meals. But when caterers or restaurants are asked to prepare a fresh meal and send it to a local banquet hall, restaurant or executive lunchroom, they should consider telling the administrative assistant who is making the arrangements that they can serve the best meal possible by sending pre-plated food to be served at refrigerator or room temperature.

Less aluminum foil and plastic to dispose of, less risk of spilling the sauce all over your dinner companion, and we would all eat better food.

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  1. I agree. There has to be a better way. By the time you have unboxed and peeled the plastic off your meal, you completely cover the table with the unappetizing melted plastic and wrapping debris. I always try to intercept my meal before it is delivered to the table and unwrap it with the waiter in the kitchen. I also agree that the refrigerated/room temperature food is a much better idea, when it is available, although the plastic is still annoying. My husband has developed an unwrapping "system" over many years of business lunches that is very entertaining, and his regular travel buddies call it the Jewish Food Strip Show :)

    12 Replies
    1. re: mamaleh

      And then they forget to bring the plastic utensils, which once reduced my husband to using straws as chopsticks.

      1. re: DebbyT

        Quai 5 in Geneva last week send me a very cool square, clear plastic plate. Attached to each side was a fork, spoon or knife. Brilliant. Unfortunately, the main course came in a clear plastic sealed bak that was IMPOSSIBLE to puncture. And when the kitchen followed the instructions to microwave for 3 minutes it not only overcooked the duck to the consistency of tough beef jerky, it melted the plate knife and fork into twisted, sculpted objects. It safe to eat from a plastic plate that has melted until it is shaped like a Frank Gehry building?

        1. re: AdinaA

          I have always found it easier in these situations to either ask for a fruit plate (if you will eat that) or just drink. A lot of times the person who invited me is insistent and goes to real trouble to get you food so you have to eat it to be polite, but other than that I try to just say no.

          1. re: mrmoose

            Mr. Moose, You are absolutely correct that you are often obliged to eat because not doing so will make your hosts uncomfortable. So, like you, I have gone the fruit plate route. The problem with it is that I got hungry.

            Man does not live by sliced cantaloupe alone, and there may not be time to go back to your room and eat so between the afternoon meeting and heading out to dinner with the group.

            Even at a dinner banquet, you can often get pretty hungry with your beautifully arranged fruit plate containing three raspberries, two slices of kiwi and a sunburst made of starfruit while the speaker drones on...

            And sometimes I am the speaker, and I have spend the day or the afternoon being the visiting guest pooh-ba, being given a tour, had a meeting with a colleague, spoken to a small group, and at 6 I am taken by three colleagues to the best Italian place in town where they are given veal scallopini and I am expected make do with a sliced melon and then head to a lecture hall where I will stand at the podium for two hours? No, thank you. Not when the city I am in has perfectly respectable kosher caterers.

            All that I am asking for is that they give me some cold salmon or maybe sliced chicken and vegetables wrapped in a single layer of plastic accompanied by a plastic knife and a plastic fork so that I can eat without having to dispose of an enormous amount of aluminum foil and food that has been microwaved to inedibility.

            Is that too much to ask?

            1. re: AdinaA

              I agree with you. A beautiful meal can be made cold but I think most of these places don't know anything about kosher and rely on what the kosher caterer tells them. So its really the kosher caterer's fault as they should know exactly how it feels to be in this situation and come up with a better solution. I usually bring a salad dressing packet in my purse and ask for a huge salad of uncooked vegetables, including avocado, if possible as I find the salad is always more filling with it. A kosher caterer with any sense could instruct the hall to prepare a cold salad and then just provide a small box with a dressing packet, a nice piece of protein and a piece of bread! Or the hotel could just get a kosher can of tuna steak some commercial italian dressing (most of which are kosher) and you've got a meal better than any kosher caterers plastic junk! (sorry, I get stuck with the fruit platter a lot too)

              1. re: azna29

                If any caterers read this thread, I would be interested to hear whether you have considered sending more meals to be eaten at room temperature.

                1. re: azna29

                  Here's a caterer chiming in - and you're all right - it is a problem! The nicest solution is to offer a room-temperature meal on china. This can simply be wrapped with a clear saran, sealed with kosher tape - not a lot of packaging and easily removed. If china isn't in the budget, then on the nice "faux china" ivory disposables

                  For those times when a hot meal is requested - we put in an 8" aluminum pan, double-wrap with aluminum and recommend that the venue present the heated meal to the client and then replate tableside onto either china or "faux china" for the client, using disposable serving utensils.

                  Your thoughts?

                  1. re: koshertaim

                    Perfect. I have had this sort of thing done and you have no idea how comfortable it makes me and whoever I am eating with.

                    Actually, you probably do know. which is why you do it so nicely. My thanks.

                    I assume that you are a fairly large community. I find that the worst of the overwrapping, dripping, mess of superfluous tinfoil happens in smaller communities where the caterers do this sort of thing only occasionally.

                    1. re: AdinaA

                      Yes - we're in Manhattan and so it's a fairly frequent request and the restaurants and hotels are fairly sophisticated with the presentation.

                    2. re: koshertaim

                      The only added suggestion I would make is to give the client the option to break the seal and replate the food in the kitchen or somewhere else out of the way that is not at the table with the rest of the guests.

                      1. re: avitrek

                        Another kosher caterer chiming in here...every venue, be it hotel, non-kosher restaurant, cruise ship or otherwise will have their own protocol, and their own chef captaining their respective ships. Some may be perfectly happy to have you come aboard to oversee plating, while many MANY others would not even let non-employees into a kitchen (many union hotels in NYC come to mind). As a chef, it's always daunting to send out food not knowing whether or not it's going to butchered or cooked to a crisp for hours in a warmer by someone else who's name is not on it anyways. AdinaA, you are totally onto something here. Especially during the summer, nearly all of our offerings are to be served either cold or at room temp. A personal favorite.

                        Salmon Fillet with Miso Marinade, with white & black toasted sesame & nori
                        Cold sesame noodles with snap peas, scallions and enochi
                        Asian inspired red cabbage slaw with jicama (in a cup of course)

                        BTW, the reason that most hot dishes come in that seemingly impenetrable wrapping is that they are commercially shrink-wraped in order to add 2-3 days lifespan to each. As a pleasant aside, cold foods neither need nor for that matter benefit from shrink wrapping, although cutting through mashgiach tape is always going to be part of the game folks.

                        When in doubt....this chef says...just order whisk(e)y

                2. re: mrmoose

                  It gets better when there's only an option for a kosher meal with no ability to specify that not only are you a vegetarian. Even if you can, every kosher caterer assumes vegetarians eat fish because it's not fleishig. I can't eat fish if I wanted to as I am allergic to fish. I end up with this huge pile of trash from unwrapping a meal that I only peck around. Just not worth it.

                  This is when it's great to be a woman because you can carry around a big bag without any funny looks. I bring along trail mix, chocolate bar, and peanut butter-banana sandwich. That with a salad is more than adequate and I end up sharing with some similarly food-challenged soul.