Tuesday, May 20, 2008


In the early days of Van Halen - back when they were good - they became infamous for a particular accommodations rider on their touring contract. It called for a large bowl of plain M&Ms be waiting for them in their hotel suite after their show with all of the brown M&Ms removed. If the caterers failed to comply, Diamond Dave and the boys trashed the room. Presumably after they had finished banging all the groupies.

Because they were young and in a rock band, this sort of behavior can be written off as the shenanigans of the young and wild who had suddenly found the world to be their oyster, and who wanted to crack it open as hard as they could while they could.

On the other end of the spectrum you have this, which can be written off as the imperious message crafting of a party brimming with pantloads who cannot resist a show of smug but empty-headed self-righteousness and symbolic nothingness:

Fried shrimp on a bed of jasmine rice and a side of mango salad, all served on a styrofoam plate. Bottled water to wash it all down.

These trendy catering treats are unlikely to appear on the menu at parties sponsored by the Denver 2008 Host Committee during the Democratic National Convention this summer.

Fried foods are forbidden at the committee's 22 or so events, as is liquid served in individual plastic containers. Plates must be reusable, like china, recyclable or compostable. The food should be local, organic or both.

And caterers must provide foods in "at least three of the following five colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white," garnishes not included, according to a Request for Proposals, or RFP, distributed last week

We must pause here to note how incredibly insensitive the food color provision is to the Blind and Color Blind Communities. Obviously this requirement is deeply Color-Sighted-biased and I hope that some leader in that victim group raises hell over this culinary hate crime!

The shrimp-and-mango ensemble? All it's got is white, brown and orange, so it may not have the nutritional balance that generally comes from a multihued menu.

"Blue could be a challenge," joked Ed Janos, owner of Cook's Fresh Market in Denver. "All I can think of are blueberries."

Eggplant! Just like the shape of their bloated empty heads. (Though only slightly more appetizing.)

The national nominating convention Aug. 25-28 will bring about 50,000 people to Denver, and many will scarf loads of chow served at catered parties.

The vast majority of whom will collectively burn millions of pounds of jet fuel to get there so they can eat food that's locally grown (in Colorado!) so as to mitigate all the carbon gases emitted by transporting it.

The prospect of that business windfall has tantalized caterers since Denver was named host city for the convention more than a year ago.

They forgot that they were dealing with Democrats; of whom the term "business windfall" is almost always followed by the words "must be stopped". Except of course, when it comes to currency speculators.

Caterers praise the committee and the city for their green ambitions, but some say they're baffled by parts of the RFP.

"I think it's a great idea for our community and our environment. The question is, how practical is it?" asks Nick Agro, the owner of Whirled Peas Catering in Commerce City. "We all want to source locally, but we're in Colorado. The growing season is short. It's dry here. And I question the feasibility of that."

Feasibility has never been a bar to a dumb Democrat idea.

But I'm sure the delegates will enjoy that rack of lamb with a sunflower, sorghum and millet ragout. Provided that those ingredients are in season in late August.

Agro's biggest worry is price. Using organic and local products hikes the costs.

Cost has never been a bar to a dumb Democrat idea.

"There is going to be sticker shock when those bids start coming in," he says. "I'll cook anything, but I've had clients who have approached me about all-organic menus, and then they see the organic stuff pretty much doubles your price."

The document, which applies only to the host committee's parties, came after months of work that involved discussions with caterers and event planners along the Front Range, says Parry Burnap, Denver's "greening" director.

Dear Citizens of Denver: I've discovered a new way to save your tax dollar.

Burnap is attached to the host committee full time for now; the committee works closely with the city but is a separate, nonprofit entity.

D'oh! Shoulda kept reading. I'll have to amend that last wisecrack:

Dear Citizens of Denver Donors to Nonprofit Organizations: I've discovered a new dumb way to donate your tax charitable dollar.

Thousands of other parties hosted by corporations, lobbying groups, individuals, nonprofits and more will happen in Denver during the convention, Burnap says. None of them is subject to the committee's green agenda.

So wait: Democrats who party with the committee, will have to have to abide by these green earth-saving hideously expensive and virtually impossible culinary proscriptions, but Democrats partying with corporations and lobbyists (wait! I thought lobbyists and corporations only feted Republicans! This can't be true!) can sup on imported Kobe beef and truffles washed down with Italian wine or baby seal blood or whatever the hell non-locally sourced inhumane fluid those people drink? Served on Styrofoam plates?????


Sorry. I'm just hypothesizing there. They probably won't serve Italian wines. Democrats are more French wine sorts.

The committee's effort to host eco-friendly events, she says, hinges on its determination not just to put on a smart convention but to transform Denver into a top-shelf green city.

"We are hoping that everything we are doing for greening (the convention) has some legacy value," she says.

The RFP, for example, will likely live on after the convention in a brochure the city will distribute widely to help guide local businesses interested in improving their green practices.

Burnap says taking the organic and local route may be more costly, but the committee thinks caterers will find ways to comply and still make a profit.

"It takes some creativity because some of these things are more expensive," she says. "But we're at the front end of a market shift."

"I thought there would be corn? Where's the corn, chef?"

"Zere ees two kernels of zee corn ees under zee beeg block of sorghum. Eets a plating technique I learned in Frawnce!"

This is how they're running a convention. I can't wait to see how they run the country!

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