Friday, July 24, 2009

About the food

My least favorite parts of the RWA National Convention involved food.

I am no country hick. I expected high hotel prices for snack, room service, and restaurants. I fully expected the catered lunches to all include some form of chicken and pasta or chicken and rice (one of each, as it turns out). I expected hotel food to be, well, institutional to some degree. I did not expect to be appalled by the table manners of some of the other attendees.

I am not a country hick, but neither am I an etiquette maven, and I was raised far from any semblance of the country-club set. But I have attended my share (maybe more than my share) of fancy business dinners and weddings at places like the Ritz-Carlton downtown Chicago, the Frontenac Hilton, the Chase Park Plaza and the Starlight Roof, the Fox theater (dinner on the stage!), and City Hall in St. Louis. (Not that the events were put on by City Hall, but were private events held there—it’s an exceedingly beautiful venue, btw). Some of them black tie, some business dinners with networking opportunities.

At none of these other events that I’ve attended have I seen diners arrive at their seats twenty minutes early and devour their salads, all scraps of bread on the table, and half of their desserts before all seats at the table are even filled! Nor have I seen people wait with their fork and knife in hand, hovering over their food and practically salivating while waiting for the entire table to be served (this one person in particular had at least noticed that others were politely waiting for all to be served). At the Rita/Golden Heart reception, I saw people carry entire serving trays of appetizers off of the buffets, and set up their own private mini-buffets to share with 2 or 3, while others waited in long lines for a bite or two of shrimp.

I don’t care how tight your budget is, YOU ARE NOT STARVING. DO NOT PRETEND THAT YOU ARE. There is no reason to fall on your food like a rabid wolf. There is no call to arrive thirty minutes before an advertised meal time and stockpile your plate like you’ll never see another bagel again. It is not polite, and is very very far from considerate to hoard food while others are still waiting. Wait your turn. Wait politely. Wait for the entire table, if not the entire ballroom, to be ready. Take your share and no more (if you want seconds, you wait until everyone has been served). These are the same kinds of table manners that my husband and I are working very hard to teach to our 2 and 4 year olds. I certainly hope a few fellow RWA members remember them for next year.

I don’t believe that the hotel or the planners helped matters much with some of their choices of presentation and location. The continental breakfasts, and the GH/Rita Reception were served in a landing area outside the main ballroom that was, in my opinion, far too small. The reception was a crush. Literally, a crush. I’ve read about them in Regency Romances, but I’ve never actually experienced one until now.

The food tables were too tightly packed together so that long lines formed around them as if they were a dinner buffet, instead of a more civilized cocktail hour. Maybe some budget-conscious attendees treated them as dinner buffets. The dessert table was too sparse and many of us watched the table emptied by vultures before ever arriving at the front of the line for a single bite of chocolate. And if there was water, coffee, or iced tea available at the reception, I never saw it. Just the bar—with small ticket-sellers set up next to them. $5 for a single soda, alcohol more expensive, and no alternatives in sight.

I am hoping that people will be better behaved next year in Nashville. And that perhaps, our conference fee will go a bit farther so that the 7:30-8:30 continental breakfasts are not stripped bare by 7:52. I would hope that the Rita/GH reception would merit as nice of a venue as the actual awards ceremony—at least one of the side ballrooms, instead of a landing between the stairs and some bland meeting rooms.

Myabe I expect too much. I’ve been to some awfully nice events, after all. And though I didn’t expect Ritz-Carlton from a Marriott crowd, maybe my expectations were just a tad higher than they should have been.

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