Monday, August 16, 2010

Working rules of party consumption, quite literally

We have a saying at work, it's pretty eloquent. It goes, "I can't eat now or I will be all blah blaaaah, ugggh, with the teeth and everything before I have to talk."

I know what you are thinking: Brilliant.

Both to translate and demonstrate the canniness of this seemingly Bevis-and-Butthead generated sentiment: If you have to speak to a room full of people, I mean have to; because it is, say, your job, then you can't be trying to chew and swallow quickly because you are eating. Or, for that matter, be hammered out of your gourd when you are trying to listen or speak in the line of duty.

One of the ever-present qualities of people who attend many events is that they rarely eat at the event. Sometimes, possibly, only enough to say they have sampled all the food; that is usually my goal. In my hand is water in a wine glass or wine cut with three quarters water, or sparkling water if it is supposed to be champagne.

I took this photo at a food event. The most notable missing object in the photo is the reason the gathering was held: Food in the guests hands. Worth noting, no?

Only once have I run across a bartender who did not understand why I wanted my drink watered down but not looking like a spritzer; At work events, I don't want questions about why I do or don't do anything. I am there to elevator-pitch a product or business. As pleasant as it is to chat about kids and vacations, I am going to be razor sharp conversationally and swing you right back to my charge. Food and wine slow me. I will eat after or tomorrow. But not now.

Likewise, I cannot ask you to wait while I swallow a Peking Duck roll and suck on my teeth for a moment while you wait to shake hands. Seen it, believe me. Oh, have I been there.

I write about food and wine, consequently, I need to taste it all. I generally wander away from humanity to eat. At wine tastings, I am relentless in using a spittoon (indeed, it took me a while accept this was both necessary and mannered).

Like most of my colleagues, I am always hungry and cannot wait to get to dinner but I prefer not to eat while trying to do other things. Between events, our team will often head for a favorite spot and have a quiet meal. Since we are food and beverage people, we do not speak very much at a "family meal" because we are tasting the food, assessing, mulling... in my past life, people just needed a few moments to unwind and did not want to eat alone and meals between events or during travel could be equally as quiet.

Even though guests at the recent fundraisers in New York for the Democratic Party paid $30,400 a seat to dine with President Obama, he ate little or nothing in two events and stopped to take a meal with his staff at the Four Seasons.

Frankly, I understand perfectly. I mean, what if he had spit a chunk of tartare out on a piece of Elie Saab couture at Anna Wintour's place while trying to eat and ask his questions. No, I mean, no, that would not fly.

How do you manage food, wine, and the business?


High Heeled Life said...

When I was in Corporate and attending various client based functions; [buffet, mingling type]I would make sure I ate something before hand and would on occassion have the first glass of wine so as not to affend ` but then it would be sparkling water with lemon. If it was a sit down dinner ~ depending on the function I would accept the invitations - noting that due to prior committments I would not arrive until after dessert. I agree it is always best to be alert! HHL

Marsha said...

The only work or PTA event cocktail in which I'll indulge is a Campari & Soda - it's festive, tasty, doesn't raise questions due to its cocktail-y look, and is nearly alcohol-free. As for food, I've perfected the art of not eating in view of the guests (even when I am among them). I simply will not do it. In addition to the challenges you raise, as a woman "of size," as they say, I am acutely aware of my eating habits being noticed. Not eating removes the issue from the table, so to speak, and allows my conversation partners (and observers, the numbers of which are legion) to concentrate on what I am saying rather than what I am eating.

pve design said...

A work related event as well as social events are not meant to "fill-up" or pose as a "glutton" but I think in work related, most tend to stick to clear liquids or remain hands free for shaking and gesturing.
I have witnessed some guests act as though it was the last supper, like seagulls on the beach soaring and hovering for the take.