Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Primal Dumplings

Would you like to taste my crocodile-wattle-seed dumplings?” This was not an inventive sexual proposition but an invitation to taste a line of fusion gyoza. I was asked to sample the gentleman’s dumplings yesterday at the Fancy Food Show, having finagled a press pass along with my friend Laura. Line after line of booths filled the Moscone Center, and eager sales reps vied to get you to taste their samples. I declined the gyoza, but I gorged on chocolate-covered champagne grapes and lemon-chiffon goat-cheese ice cream.

When I could eat no more, I concentrated on filling the large bag I had brought with me. I did everything I could to get free samples. I dropped the name of the food magazine I sometimes write for, and accepted armfuls of promotional material that I then discreetly ditched. Sometimes I resorted to shameless flirting. It wasn’t enough for me to get a miniature gift box. I wanted the salespeople to dig out the bigger gifts they kept hidden under the cloth-draped tables, the entire cakes and the bottles of olive oil, the industrial-size bags of chocolate buttons. I grew greedier and greedier, and soon I found myself accepting things I did not want, such as a box of Gourmet Seasoning Sheets. I didn’t want to eat any more, I just wanted to take. Grabbing stuff gave me a primal thrill and it is obvious why. Sitting at my computer all day is unnatural. We evolved to spend our days hunting and gathering. As I roamed the convention hall gathering gourmet goods, I was satisfying ancient instincts.

Then my eye caught a pile of beribboned bags of fennel-seed crackers stacked up on a table. I ignored the tray of samples and reached for one of the bags, asking “Can I have this?” as I did so. The handsome Italian running the booth hesitated. Instantly I realized I had violated some unwritten code. You had to be offered a bag. You couldn’t ask for a bag. Asking for a bag was like knocking on someone’s door and asking to join the dinner party you had seen through their front window. The look the salesman gave me was more shaming than a slap on the wrist. When he handed me the bag, I gave it to Laura. I knew that his disdain would make the crackers taste like ash.

On the way home, I felt disgusted with myself. I was a glutton who snatched things she didn’t deserve. And on top of that, I had wasted half an afternoon of writing. I decided that the best way to redeem myself would be to share my bounty with someone hungrier than I was. I rooted through my bag of overwrought tidbits but I couldn’t decide if offering lemon-scented miniature madeleines to a homeless person would be worse than offering nothing at all. When I got home, like a kid after Halloween, I emptied my haul onto the kitchen table and felt slightly nauseous.


Anonymous Mark said...

This story reminds me of when my college roommates and I would go to campus career fairs, not to hand out resumes, but to go 'yoinking'. 'Yoinking' is when you bring a backpack to the career fair, and proceed to fill it up with all of the free junk that companies give out with their logo on it. Usually, we would just sneak by and grab the frisbee or magnet or pocket flashlight or whatever it was while trying not to be noticed. This would preferably be when the stiff at the table was distracted talking to some desperate student wearing a business suit that was trying with all their heart to get a job that would make them miserable. But sometimes, we would walk directly up to a table, and with the full attention of the stiff, grab the thing, and say 'yoink.' It's a stupid and immature stunt, but it definitely wasn't anywhere near the stupidest or most immature stunt that we did in college. Once I walked away from a table, and one stiff said to another stiff, 'Did he just say yoink?'

2:45 PM  

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