Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts October 1998
Short Cuts:YOU SERVED THAT?
You've planned a mouth-watering menu: oysters
on the half shell, caesar salad, swordfish steaks and other
sure-to-please selections. So why are so many dishes returning to
the kitchen untouched?
These days food isn't just a matter of taste. Politics, health
and religion are also key considerations. While what to eat is
still a very individual issue, the following items should be on a
planner's list of foods to think twice about.
Rare meat is out, thanks to scares of mad cow
disease and the e-coli bacteria. Sushi is still trendy, but
raw fish dishes of any sort can be dangerous. That
goes for raw shellfish, too. This past May the Food and Drug
Administration announced a national recall on all oysters harvested
from Galveston Bay in Texas when hundreds of people from Texas to
as far afield as Florida fell ill after consuming the seasonal
Cooked fish isn't fail-safe, either. In March 1997 the National
Marine Fisheries Service, headquartered in Silver Spring, Md.,
released a national research report that showed the North Atlantic
swordfish population was severely over-exploited
and could face extinction if overfishing continues. Several
restaurants, fearing customer reprisals, immediately yanked the
tasty steak fish from menus, replacing it with substitutes such as
Some avoid serving fish for other reasons. "The smell of it can
overpower the whole room," says Shandra Mahtani, director of
catering at the La Jolla Marriott in La Jolla, Calif. "If you've
got a two-hour program and you're in an enclosed room, the smell
Even grapes are controversial. Ann Arbor,
Mich., caterer Katherine Hilboldt Farrel, owner of Katherine's
Catering & Special Events, recalls a banquet for 3,000: "Five
minutes before the guests were to walk through the door, the
planner runs in and says, ÔI'm sorry, we can't have any grapes out
at all.' We had to run around like crazy and pull them from
everywhere, even the table decorations," says Farrel. The reason:
The client was very concerned with the issue of American
exploitation of Mexican farm laborers.
Veal and pork have regularly
been short-listed as foods to avoid - one for cruelty to animals
(calves are routinely force-fed in boxed-in conditions), the other
for religious and ethnic reasons. Still, they continue to make an
appearance - unwelcome to many - at events. "I once made stuffed
veal shoulder for a group and got a letter from someone who was
very offended," says Farrel.
Beloved caesar salad, deemed the country's
salad of choice by the National Restaurant Association in its 1997
Menu Analysis report, also comes up against serious opposition.
"You really have to find out from your caterer how they're making
the dressing," cautions Farrel. "Never use raw eggs [due to the
salmonella risk]; always make sure they are coddled."
IF YOU COULD TAKE A COLLEGE COURSE RIGHT NOW,
WHAT WOULD YOU STUDY?
"I'd take two: one on training and development, just to
supplement the logistical side of what I do. And I'd love to take
piano lessons. Lately I've been bemoaning the fact that I never
took lessons as a child."
Shelley E. Griffin, CMP
Archaeological Institute of America
"Art history. Probably something on impressionism. I've
always been interested in art history, but I've never had the
opportunity to pursue it."
Tony Lorenz, CMP
"Probably a business writing class. It would help me to
communicate better with hotels and my facilitators and support
Kathy A. Merritt, CMP
Hewitt Associates LLC
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