Nibbles & Snacks ~ Hazon Food Conference, Day 2

Tasty stuff:

I am experiencing the unparalleled pleasure of having total foodie-obsessive conversations with everyone I meet. Conversations cover everything from animal welfare as it pertains to the dairy industry to whether or not gluten intolerance can be ameliorated through sourdough fermentation or by using non-rancid flour to an animated joint recounting of every vegan and vegetarian dish ever cooked on Top Chef. (By the way, if you haven’t watched the episode of Top Chef Masters where they have to cook a vegan meal for Zooey Deschanel and her friends, and all these professional chefs are totally confused and intimidated and crying about how it’s “like cooking with one hand tied behind your back,” you really need to check it out. I guess I’m a Master Chef since I somehow manage to cook creative, tasty vegan food every single day.)

I am very clearly not going to starve as I had feared. In addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we have three snack breaks a day, and today’s snack schedule was additionally supplemented by an evening wine and cheese tasting for Shabbat. I feel like a hobbit – “breakfast, then second breakfast, then elevenses, then lunch, followed by afternoon tea, then dinner, then supper…” – and the fact that Mary’s Crackers sponsored our after-lunch snack break only adds to joy. The Joy of Noshing, this conference could be called!

Santa even makes Christmas morning deliveries to Jewish Food Conferences, for those who believe in him. I’ll say no more on that one. (Thanks, Mama Santa!)

I am like a walking tourist bureau for San Francisco’s dining establishments. A bunch of conference attendees are taking a few more days of vacation in the City and are looking for recommendations. This being a food conference, I have found receptive ears for my detailed descriptions of my favorite places to eat. I created a vegan visitor’s tour tonight for one of my tablemates, debated Millenium vs. Greens with another, and Burma Super Star can thank me for the huge bump in business they can expect after the conference (not that they need any help!).

A little sour:

One bummer was that they served barley at lunch, with no signage to warn people or info about whether or not another grain was available for those of us who can’t eat gluten. After asking us on our applications whether or not we were gluten-free, this kind of oversight was surprising and disappointing. One woman at my table even asked one of the Asilomar chefs if it contained gluten and was told no, so she just figured it must be very large-grained brown rice and chowed down. A few bites in she realized her mistake. I hope she doesn’t get too sick! C’mon, Hazon, that’s an important one to get right…

The accessibility issues still seem pretty severe. I’m plum tuckered from hiking back and forth from my room to the social hall, dining room, and various session locations. The sessions are really spread out (though they could be even further apart – Asilomar is huge!), and I am curious about the logic behind the room assignments for each session.

The worst part, though, from both a low-energy/movement-compromised perspective and a cognitive disability perspective (as, sadly, I am qualified to assess from both) is how confusing everything is geographically. Our conference program has a map in the back, laid out of one of those grids with numbers along one side and letters along the other, but there’s no map index! So there’s no place to look up the session locations by name and then be led to them on the map.

I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time so far squinting at this map, scanning each quadrant and trying to find the place I’m looking for. And then, once I’ve found it on the map, that’s still no guarantee I’ll be able to find it in real life. All the paths here are circuitous, and none of the buildings are well-marked. Today I walked down a road, followed a little path, and then circled a building almost entirely before coming across the tiny sign that announced its name.

I had passed SIX separate entrances to the building, but none of them were marked with the building’s name. After circling the entire building I finally found the small, discreet sign (dark yellow lettering on brown) that told me I was in the wrong place. I was so tired by then that I just wanted to go back to my room and never leave. My room, however, was uphill, and the place I was trying to get to was downhill, so I continued onward, following the path of least resistance.

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