Tuesday, June 06, 2006
A party at someone's home usually lasts two hours or so, with plenty of time for browsing the catalogue and ordering. Today is an experiment: how can I run a lunch-hour party in an office setting without it being rushed or cutting any corners. I am doing a lunch-hour demo at the university where I work part-time, with my colleagues as the guests. Some of them have been to one of my home parties, so they will have helpful feedback on how today compares.
The first useful thing (although it didn't feel that way when she told me) is that Laura, my manager, friend and hostess, almost forgot about the event, and she didn't do the required shopping until the last moment. I do always remind hosts a few days before, but with an office-based party I think I will do it the day before. It makes sense: if you are in the commuting routine, it is easy to forget you have to take groceries to work one day.
I heave the microwave from the communal kitchen into the biggest shared office, and assign one desk for food preparation and another as my shop window. I drop most of my normal intro about the history and background of Tupperware. Instead, after the briefest of introductions, I cut straight to the cooking demo. As we go through the demo I just chuck in the occasional bit of info about Tupperware's significance in history, economics, gender, design, science and sociology! Hey, you really learn something at my demos, you know.
The microwaved chocolate almond cake is becoming a bit of a regular, but that's because it works, it is quick, it wows the crowds as it pops out of the silicone form, and it tastes good. And who doesn't love an unexpected slice of chocolate cake placed on their office desk when it's not even anyone's birthday.
As we cook, and I tell guests about the products we are using, I field questions about some of the other products on the display and pass them around. I also ask the crowd for their own Tupperware anecdotes. It seems to work, and because I know all the guests, I don't mind taking some chances in this trial run.
We started 10 minutes late while everyone fetched their lunch and found a seat, but we still finish with a few minutes to go before the end of the lunch hour. I work here, so I leave the display up until the end of the day. There is time for people to take a catalogue away with them, even take it home, and give me their order tomorrow. For other office parties, I won't have this luxury, so I now need to figure out how to include enough time for people to order, without pressurising them. I certainly need a good half-hour to pack my bag too, so perhaps I will have to assign a full two hours to an office party after all. We'll see.
A big weekend is coming up. Two home parties, one of which is my first charity party in aid of The Food Chain, and a stall at the residents' association summer fete in Merrick Square.