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Saturday, May 30, 2009

You gonna eat that?

I have a new obsession as a part of our lessons from the recession and I'm not sure it's a healthy one. It's just short of dumpster diving Thank God. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Had to put that disclaimer in just in case I build to that over time.

Obviously, with the savings account dwindling, eating out is not on our list of the savings plan. Now.....we're both pretty good cooks at our house and there's no shortage of decent meals. Especially since we've seen the light on the quality of most generic foods. We can whip up a mean chicken pesto or the best cheeseburgers and homemade fries you've had at the best burger joint. The point is, we're not starving or lacking really.


There is this craving for restaurant food or at least food someone else bought and fixed. Which brings me to my new, let's call it a "hobby." Obsession is a pretty strong word and I fear my friends will stage an intervention if I go that far.

Let me give you some context. My job involves many meetings and presentations where my company or my clients pay big money to restaurants and hotels to provide sprawling displays of food. Often times I'm the speaker at these gigs so I'm not exactly an 'under the radar' part of this event.

I've been doing this job for some time and would rarely eat at those badass buffets because I was busy prepping and speaking and smoozing. However, now they've got my attention!

It started about 6 months ago in a well known Italian restaurant chain that has meeting rooms that we use frequently for marketing events. As I was wrapping up the presentation, for some reason, I looked over at how much food was left, food that we had paid big money for and I knew was going to get thrown away. Out of the blue I said, OK everyone, before you leave, grab a to- go box and take some great food to your colleagues that have manned the fort while you were here! And they did! And SO DID I!

That was the beginning. Where it all started.

I waited until everyone else had gone and the waitress said to me, do you want to take the rest. My mind started racing looking at the spread of fruit and muffins and bagels. Sure, I said.

She brought me one of those big metal catering trays and I proceeded to fill it with strawberries as big as my head and clusters of grapes that surely were from the Garden of Eden.

Then I filled a bag with bagels, muffins, sweet rolls.

I left not thinking about the clients I had served and how much business I had driven. I left excited about my fruit bounty and ready to share it with my crew at home. Gather round little ones, mama's coming home with a 'score'!

Sadly, two of the sweet rolls didn't make it home. I ate those in the car.

I brought the food in and went back into my bedroom to change. I came back and they were all gathered around the fruit bounty eating strawberries and grapes. Happy Happy Happy.

Once again, let me clarify. I buy fruit for my family. Lots of fruit. Fresh fruit. There's something special about free fruit that came from a "restaurant" (sound effect of angels singing and visual of the bright light shining down)

So, my friends, that was the beginning.

Now, I find myself scoping the buffet table before I think about the speech I'm about to give or the clients I'm going to meet. I guess its the hierarchy of needs at play.

My weirdest example of my hobby was when I had dinner with a couple of colleagues, including a new employee. This was our first meeting. We had a normal dinner and, with my new practice, I asked for the rest of mine to-go. My colleague was staying in a hotel and I was going home and she said, "would you like to take the rest of mine home too." Which means, maybe everyone is on to me. I must have that "you gonna eat that?" look and I don't even realize it. I said, "sure I'll take it." Remember the Lesson from the Recession about pride and ego. Leave em at home.

I brought home the bounty. Went in to change and came out to find my guy happily chowing down on his restaurant food. I came out, he looked up and said, Thanks for the salad. I had the moment where I had to decide if I was going to tell him the truth. I smiled and said, Hope you don't mind that was from my new colleague. I also assured him she didn't look like she had cooties or any sign of the pig flu. He hesitated mid-bite and looked at me. Just for a second. Then he smiled and said, "oh well". He's diggin' the new hobby too!

There's been other 'instances' of my 'hobby' but I'll skip to the most recent.

Last week I hosted a colleague of mine in a large event. Not just any colleague, this is a well known speaker, author, New York times best selling author, thought leader, pretty famous kind of guy. After the big event (that just had snacks) we went into a smaller room for a meeting with a top client with a table of hors d'oeuvres. Cheese, lots of cheese, good cheese, including brie, my weakness and bread, lots of bread, and these little asparagus thingies. The motherload!

I made myself an acceptable little plate to eat during the meeting. Then I tried to focus. I quickly realized that I wasn't going to have time to scoop up these top notch buffet left overs because my famous guy had to get the airport immediately following this meeting! AND I WAS HIS RIDE! My heart sunk. Here was a room full of people waiting to get autographs from the guy I get to spend the day and my career with and all I could think of was my disappointment with not bringing home the motherload. This mother was not going to score today. Sorry little asparagus you'll end up in the dumpster today. You win some bus-tub buffets and you lose some.

Just checked the schedule. I've got an event coming up in 10 days. Whew, a chance for redemption.