Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Visit of the Mayors

The Mayors have come to Okie City.  Unfortunately, they are meeting at our government owned convention facilities.  That means they will have to go elsewhere for a good meal.

I attended a convention at one of our government meeting centers downtown a while back and went to the banquet.  It was perhaps the worst banquet meal I have ever eaten, and given the well-deserved bad reputation of convention fodder, that's saying something.  The meal consisted of half of a baked chicken (so seriously under-cooked I did not eat it, bright red inside a chicken is not appetizing), "encrusted" with slices of slightly warm/mostly raw potatoes and sprinkled with maybe 3 or 4 flecks of  herbs, 4 small pieces of vegetable, some rice-out-of-a-box, also undercooked, a salad and a roll.  The roll was good, the salad was acceptable, and I did eat my four small pieces of indifferently cooked veggies, but I refused to touch the chicken and its coating of nearly raw potatoes.

And yes, I did file a complaint with the health department, and ended up in a three way phone converation between someone from the health department and two people from the convention center and that mostly consisted of them assuring me that nobody ever complains about our convention centers' food, and they could not imagine what happened for my chicken to be so undercooked.  Why, according to them, that was almost impossible.  Maybe I imagined the rivers of blood streaming from my undercooked chicken, but as I hadn't had anything to drink, I don't think so.

The problem with convention food is the monopolies wielded by contractors to these facilities.  If you are allowed to bring in someone else, there is usually a stiff tax to be paid to the concessionaire, so high it is obviously designed to keep people from using outside caterers.

Since convention people are here one day and gone the next, and since we are dealing with a government enterprise, and since nearly universally across the country, the food at government convention centers is only marginally edible, there's no financial incentive to do anything other than feed convention people the lowest quality food at the cheapest possible price.

The Oklahoma Sustainability Network faces a similar problem with its annual meetings.  The food concessionaire at the University of Central Oklahoma is pretty bad.  The last meeting I went to there I had a sandwich on stale bread, lol. 

There's no reason that convention food has to be bad.  When I went to the Slow Food event (Terra Madre 2004) in Turin, Italy, they fed 5,000 people at a time and the food was wonderful!  Well cooked, hot foods were served hot, cold foods were served cold (instead of the typically room temperature of both hot and cold foods at goobermint convention facilities).  All it takes is competence in execution, imagination in menu planning, and access to good quality foods.

Alas, Oklahoma's government facilities lack all three.

Despite our growing 21st century reputation as one of the go-to locations for local foods in the United States, our convention center caterers are stuck in a 20th century industrial food model that considers food as nothing more than fodder, the cheaper the better.

My advice to the mayors coming to town is "bring a lunch" or at least avoid the noxious foods of our convention center and explore some of the restaurants in the area.

My advice to Okies who are tired of being embarassed by our government facilities' so-called "food" is somewhat radical.  Maybe we should have a FREE MARKET for the food at our government facilities, including the convention centers, the State Fair grounds (don't get me started on those people and the harm they do to local foods by their catering policies), and even (shudder, gasp, horrors) our college food services. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm surprised Mick didn't at least disguise the food so the other Mayors would think they were getting one thing and not realize it until it was too late :)

    We are still the fattest city in the US. I hope things change, but i am not holding my breath. And i really like breathing. And good food :)