Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It’s been great, St. Louis!

Tuesday, August 8

“Gateway to Gourmet” – the theme of the 2006 USPCA Conference in St. Louis – was five days of nonstop activity. Nearly 300 personal chefs from around the USA and Canada gathered for seminars and opportunities to network and socialize. Classes included some cooking demos that effectively filled hallways with delicious aromas. Instructors were fellow chefs as well as a few local experts.

Vendors of supplies and services for personal chefs had booths. They included a chefwear company, Maytag Blue Cheese, Watkins products, knives and bamboo cutting boards, an insurance company and Trader Joes. In fact, Trader Joes provided tote bags, hors d'oeurves, and door prizes.

My M/O at chef conferences is to pop in and out of as many seminars as possible, to connect with as many personal chefs as I can, and to keep my eyes and ears open for possible articles for the personal chef magazine and for my newspaper column. And as always, I did have some favorite sessions. They were Cooking with Unusual Ingredients, Cooking with Wine, Matching Entrees and Beers, and Cooking Grains in a Pressure Cooker.

Each day I boarded MetroBus #97 for my adventure to and from the conference. And I continued to smile and give a cheerful “hello” to other bus riders. I did succeed in getting some smiles from them. One rider – an elderly black woman named Donnie – stands out as my favorite – she actually sat next to me and we had a nice conversation. She was on her way from the mall near the conference hotel to the Central Baptist Church that is just a block from the RV park.

Unfortunately the conference events took all my time and left none to do touristy things. But I did learn some interesting things about this historically important city.

  • By the 1820 census, 10,000 slaves lived in Missouri, about a fifth of the state’s population at the time.
  • Lewis & Clark started their expedition here.
  • Famous folks and events from this area include: Musician Scott Joplin, Ike and Tina Turner, Miles Davis, and Chuck Berry; W.C. Handy wrote the “St Louis Blues” while standing on the banks of the Mississippi River; George Poage, the first African American to win a medal in the Olympic games; and tennis great Arthur Ashe graduated from high school in this city.
  • Many of the old buildings and homes are made of red brick.
  • Besides Anheuser-Busch, Schlafly Brewry is a local enterprise.
  • When people talk about “the river” they are referring to the Mississippi even though the Missouri River flows through the city also.
  • There seem to be only three types of radio stations: oldies, Christian and NPR. Sunday morning while getting ready for the day I had some wonderful station choices to hear great Gospel music.
  • When in St. Louis the root beer of choice is the locally produced Fitz’s that was established in the 1940s.
  • A local favorite Italian fare is “toasted ravioli.”
  • The St. Louis Cardinals are not doing well this season – but that didn’t stop them from having a wonderful fireworks event that I could see from Jeremiah.
  • Gateway International Raceway hosts NASCAR Busch and Craftsman Truck Series plus “the Richard Petty Driving Experience.”
  • Tickets to the “Busch Braggin’ Rights Game – Missouri vs. Illinois – are the hardest-to-get basketball tickets in town.

    It’s time to travel again. In the morning I’ll head south to Arkansas and spend tomorrow night at the Old Davidsonville State Park in northern Arkansas. I’ll stay there a couple of days before continuing south to Star City, Arkansas, to visit family friend Brenda Branch.

    I’m still on schedule to arrive back in Rio Rancho on Saturday, Aug. 19.

    There is so much in the world for us all if we only have the eyes to see it, and the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it to ourselves. -- Lucy Maud Montgomery