It was a Saturday morning in late October. I was on my way to San Francisco, to attend the annual FoodBuzz Blogger Festival. This would be my first time at the event. It was also my first public step into the world of food writers. Fortunately, I had convinced my husband to come along for the ride.
We hadn't even considered rushing into San Francisco on Friday night to attend the opening reception. We also took a pass on the early morning Scavenger Hunt at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, at San Francisco’s famed Embarcadero. Even if it was “one of the most famous foodie landmarks in the world,” as the festival brochure put it, we had been to the Farmer’s Market on many occasions. And I still had to check in at the festival headquarters, at a nearby hotel.
We wanted to keep this easy. So we left the car at home and walked to the BART station near our home at mid-morning on Saturday. We carried nothing but backpacks.
Once downtown, we had a little confusion about the hotels. My husband led us to a place with a similar name, down the block. (It was the first hint that I should have been functioning as the navigator!) Once we found the right hotel, we discovered we were among the last to sign in. That offered one advantage: We got an extra gift bag for my guest, since it appeared they would have leftovers.
Those bags were filled with stuff—and bulky. So we unloaded and repackaged. It was an impressive haul, filled with goodies provided by the festival’s sponsors. The three main sponsors were the California walnut growers, the Alaska seafood industry, and San Francisco-based Ghirardelli Chocolates.
That, of course, is what this was all about. Advertising and promotion.
Most impressive (and bulky) was the NatureBox. This new company is a variant on the old “fruit box of the month” idea. You sign up and each month a sturdy, recyclable cardboard box arrives in the mail. It is filled with a half dozen bags of assorted, wholesome, organic snack items. Carefully selected by a nutritionist. Nuts, high end trail mix, dried fruits, granola. I had to admit: it was pretty posh. We left the boxes in the “please recycle” spot and stashed the individual bags in our backpacks, after sampling a couple of them.
The other Festival sponsors had contributed their fair share of promotional goodies, too. Ghirardelli chocolates bars. Small bags of California walnuts. A pretty little box of caramels made with sea salt. Nifty energy bars. Quart-sized cardboard bottles of a peculiar tasting chocolate coconut water. We got rid of those.
I studied my name tag. The official festival logo was a big red heart with a bite out of one side, with DailyBuzz Food emblazoned on it. Below, in big letters, was my full name, followed by the name of my blog, Slovenian Roots Quest. Of course, it was also there on the Festival program, in the long list of the 200-plus bloggers in attendance.
I looped the tag around my neck. Now I was official. No more anonymity.
I was all set for my coming out as a food blogger.
Next stop: the Metreon, located at one corner of the Moscone Center, San Fransisco’s big convention center. The closer we got, the more we were surrounded by other people with those telltale conventioneer IDs hanging around their necks. I spotted two or three fellow FoodBuzz Festival attendees. But our bright red foodie hearts were outnumbered by dozens of name tags with “ADA” printed in bold letters.
“I bet that’s either the American Dietetic Association or the American Dental Association,” I told my husband.
Either way, there was a certain irony here. Foodies mingling with dietitians or dentists.
We hadn’t been to the Metreon in a long time. The place had fallen on hard times. The retailers and the clever children’s museums had departed. It had changed hands and was downshifting into a food mall, with plans for a big discount department store to open on one of the upper floors in a few months.
We had some time to kill before the Taste Pavilion opened, in one of the upstairs exhibition halls. So wandered around the first floor food court. Despite the relatively high-end food operations, it was still fast food. Overcrowded and overstimulating. A peculiar entry point into the magical afternoon of local and sustainable food that was waiting for us upstairs.
We escaped to a nice-looking Japanese restaurant with outside seating. Such a relief to be outdoors again.
While we waited for our sushi to arrive, we studied the crowd. The place was swarming with convention goers. They were easy to spot. Like me, they sported name tags and carried gift bags. But most of theirs had toothbrush images and logos for water pic companies.
Now we knew for sure. These ADA members were definitely not dietitians.
“Notice how those dentists are all dressed in black?” my husband said.
He was right. They had a definite look: Mostly male, often in small packs. Looking stern and formal, even the ones who wore black business casual instead of suits. They looked grim. Determined. Ready for battle with tooth decay and patients who didn’t want to sit still.
I recalled that dentists are supposed to have high rates of suicide.
“Wow. They even look like they are marching in formation,” I added.
Just as I spoke, a heavily decorated military dentist strode by.
The miso soup and sushi were tasty. When the waitress brought the check, I was startled when she pointedly deposited it right in front of me.
Then it made sense. I glanced down. My name tag was clearly visible. I was the conventioneer and my husband was the sidekick. Naturally, I would be paying. Lunch would be my professional expense, not his.
Then I took another look at myself. Black jeans. Black tee shirt. An elegant black blouse, purchased for the occasion. A touch of color in my mostly-black scarf.
So much for my coming out as a Food Writer.
I looked just like a dentist.
The story continues here.
Causes Blair Kilpatrick Supports
Louisiana Folk Roots, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Habitat for Humanity/Musician's Village New Orleans, Doctors Without Borders