Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 10, 2013

The rubber-chicken circuit

Most people probably don't know the difference between Chicken Marsala and Chicken Piccata. Both dishes use chicken breasts, but those in the former are braised with Marsala wine and mushrooms, while the ones in the latter are served with a sauce of butter, lemon juice and capers.

And why would I - a person who has never been to culinary school or claimed any particular expertise in the kitchen - know this?

The answer is simple. I have organized any number of banquets over the years. The challenge for those of us who are event planners is to come up with a menu that offers something that is somewhat out of the ordinary while also ensuring that almost everyone will like it. So when a student helping me with this year's journalism and mass communications honors dinner suggested chicken-fried steak, I vetoed the idea - not because I don't like chicken-friend steak, but because it didn't seem as "fancy" as what was required for an end-of-the-year celebration.

For those of us at Kansas State University, this time of year is sometimes jokingly referred to as "the rubber-chicken circuit" because weekends and some week nights from about mid-April through mid-May are tied up with various receptions and dinners to mark the end of the year. Many times, chicken is the entree of choice.

Just last month, I helped organize two back-to-back events. The first - on April 26 - was the journalism and mass communications honors dinner, where Chicken Marsala was served. The next night was the Kansas Professional Communicators annual conference, where Chicken Piccata was the main course.

But in truth, the menu is probably among the least of my worries. I usually don't eat much anyway because I'm too worried about other details. Most events take weeks, if not months, of preparation. Among tasks to be completed include finding a venue, inviting a speaker or speakers, working with catering staff, sending invitation letters, promoting the event, designing a program, staying within budget, planning decorations, writing a script, ensuring the proper operation of audio-visual and sound equipment, taking photos, and orchestrating the show.

This year's journalism and mass communications dinner required even a bit more preparation because we matched our "theme" with that of the university's 2013 sesquicentennial celebration. So an added responsibility included putting together a timeline of major activities in our department, matching it with historical photos and having it printed and laminated.

But the work didn't stop there. Responsibilities after the event included "tearing down" displays and equipment, gathering registration supplies, thanking the speaker and all those who helped, and reserving a spot for next year's function.

It makes me tired just thinking about all that's involved!

So when I can attend an end-of-the-year dinner celebration where I didn't have anything to do with the planning, I can really relax and enjoy it - chicken or not.

Left: Wrestling the timeline into the van to transport to the banquet room was just one of many last-minute tasks; right: Robert Clark, Jr., a photographer for National Geographic and other publications and 1985 K-State graduate, was our speaker. Art wanted to know if the "crown of lights" above my head indicated it was about to explode. I assured him it was just a chandelier in the background.

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Earlier columns from 2013 may be found at: 2013 Index.
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