Many people jet of the office early today, this last afternoon before our last summer holiday. The weekend will start slightly late for me: I’m speaking at a historical society Connecticut tonight, at an event that will feature a guided tasting of colonial-era drinks.
Sipping grog (rum, water, sugar, and lime) and Stone-Fences (sparkling hard cider and rum) is certainly a relaxing way to kick off the holiday weekend. But due to spotty communication, I assumed the staff had their own bartender to mix the drinks; turns out that I’ll be blending them myself.
After a quick schedule recalibration, I kicked myself for communicating with the organizer solely via email; we waited to talk until the week of the event to talk, then played phone tag until it the day before the talk. With multiple devices in hand, and schedules packed to the gills, it’s an easy trap to fall into: We both forgot how much more is accomplished during a phone call (or even better, a face-to-face meeting or video call) than ever gets hammered out via email.
I wonder how many planners — who build their careers around the smooth execution of events — could have cautioned me that relying solely on e-mail can make for miscommunication and last-minute rejigging of plans.
Luckily for us, tonight’s gathering will probably have no more than two or three dozen people; yet another gap that emerged during our talk was which nonalcoholic drink would be served. Back in the day, nonalcoholic drinks tended to be more complex — and take more time to prepare — than spiritous drinks. They also often derived their kick from vinegar. I scanned the kitchen: On my counter was a pile of locally grown shiro plums, with mild, sweet flesh but tart skins — perfect for shrub. I cored and chopped them, slathered them with a handful of white sugar, and left them on the counter for a few hours, letting the sugar leach the juices from the fruit. This afternoon, I’ll combine the juice with some rice and apple vinegars for a plum shrub that, when combined with some sparkling water, fills the hole in our program and may even sate a guest or two. Then I’ll grab the bottle and race to the event, which will be a lot of fun despite the last-minute scramble.
It’s a miniature version of what chefs, and planners, do every day: Improvisation. Next time, though, I’ll close my email and pick up the phone — with plenty of time to spare.