Over the years I’ve attended many official banquets for many reasons. A few were held in honor of a science fiction convention; others were self-congratulatory awards banquets. I’ve even attended a few at which I was the guest of honor.
No matter the sincerity and virtue of the event, the quality of the food or the service is never guaranteed. Some of the worthiest events have featured some of the worst food.
For instance, I once attended a children’s book event that was — for reasons never fully explained — held at a fancy tennis club. The waiters served each of us a salad, which we finished because we were hungry, and then we waited for the main course. We waited for many minutes until we were told, with some embarrassment, that the salad was lunch. Most everybody was surprised by this. I know that a really good salad, full of veggies, cheese, meat, and who knows what-all, can be both filling and satisfying, but the tennis club salad was not one of these. It was more like what most restaurants call a dinner salad: greens, slivers of carrot, perhaps a cherry tomato and some croutons, and way too much dressing. Most people who attend a professional banquet know that the food is not the point of the exercise, but these guys didn’t even seem to be trying.
Their lack of care continued to manifest itself during the awards and speeches. The sound was either too soft or so loud as to generate howling feedback. There didn’t seem to be any adjustment in between. The book organization’s officials tried to find somebody at the tennis club who could remedy the situation but could locate no one knowledgeable. One of the waiters tried, without success, to fix things. But we didnt blame him — it wasn’t really his job. He was just trying to be helpful in an extreme situation.
At the other end of the scale was a different children’s book event held at a fancy restaurant at the top of a mountain in Burbank. I’d been to a few banquets at this location and always found the food to be, at a minimum, satisfactory. There was also enough of it to prevent me from needing a snack before my next meal. It so happened that I was facing an enormous window and could see a huge gray mass of cloud browsing its way across the San Fernando Valley as it dropped rain, while just beyond the cloud creature’s reach the sun still shone. Certainly the restaurant wasn’t responsible for the performance in the valley below, but I did notice that the windows were clean.
The whole production almost made up for the fact that on that occasion I didn’t win anything.