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Edible shoes and The Daily Meal

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Daedalus Howell/Index-Tribune

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The 39th annual Winter Fancy Food Show wrapped up its an annual three-day edible expo at San Francisco’s Moscone Center this week. The movable feast was comprised of more than 80,000 specialty foods and beverages proffered by 1,350 exhibitors from across the U.S. and 35 countries and regions. And, of course, Sonoma was among them.

Now, we newspaper types are protective of our beats (when a certain music columnist so much as mentions a drumstick he stands a chance of waking up with a chicken head in his bed courtesy of a certain food columnist), so I will tread lightly with my commentary about the event, which (a) I did not attend and (b) wouldn’t have enjoyed anyway, since I’m on some kind of caveman diet (it’s not Paleo so much as Jurassic Park – everything I want to eat is encased in amber).

There were apparently some local luminaries present – among them, of course, was our own culinary columnist Kathleen Hill. Also from under the same roof as the I-T were the gentleman jerky-makers behind Krave Jerky. And If my source is to be trusted (and she’s not), there might also have been a local maker of wine-flavored lozenges, which give you all the benefit of failing a breathalyzer test but with none of the fun.

I mention all this because, on the heels of this event, The Daily Meal just released its fourth yearly list of America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food, which purports to “determine who the REAL architects of the food world are.” Not one Sonoman is on it. Not even Kathleen. Wha..?

Colman Andrews, the editorial director of the uber foodie website The Daily Meal (and eight-time James Beard award-winner to boot), explained why this might be a good thing to me via email:

“Why no Sonomans? Well, first of all, that might be a good thing for Sonoma since by no means all of our ‘most powerful’ are admirable people; a more apposite answer, though, might be that we perceive the power in Sonoma to derive more from the world of wine than that of food – and when we do our Most Powerful People in Drink, which we will one of these days, I’m sure Sonoma will figure,” Andrews wrote.

Dude, you had me at “apposite.” So, this is how Andrews and his team do it:

“Throughout the year, The Daily Meal’s editors track stories about key figures in the food world. We also consult ‘most powerful’ lists in business magazines and solicit the opinions of trusted advisors,” says Andrews. “We then compile a basic list and do updated research to see how all the candidates have ‘changed the conversation’ or otherwise affected the culinary landscape.”

The conversation, it seems, was dominated by honchos at government agencies, a big retailer and two chemical companies.

The top five listees accordingly are:

1. Thomas Vilsack, secretary, USDA

2. Hugh Grant, chairman, president, and CEO, the Monsanto Company

3. Doug McMillion, president and CEO, Walmart

4. Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for Food, Federal Drug Administration

5. Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO, Pepsi

If you did the math in your head, you might be asking “What, you don’t think Pepsi is a chemical?” Read the ingredients on a can and then we’ll talk.

There are also some of the usual suspects, including number 39, Alice Waters, the chef-restaurateur of landmark eatery Chez Panisse – the cornerstone of Berkeley’s lauded “Gourmet Ghetto.”

I’ve eaten there but my memory of the experience was fogged by my fascination with filmmaker Werner Herzog sticking to his word to “eat his shoe” if a fellow filmmaker, documentarian Errol Morris, finished a particular project. Morris did and Herzog turned to Waters to make his footwear “edible.”

This brings me to the notion that when Kathleen Hill is included on the list of America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food, I’ll eat my shoe, too. Hear that Colman? The game, as they say, is afoot …

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Daedalus Howell sticks his foot in his mouth at DHowell.com.