You were in charge of the rolling beverage cart, whose adorable little bottles seemed to make grownups so cheerful. And you could magically quiet most children by piercing their new travel outfit with a flight wings pin with sharp metal points that looked just like the ones worn by reassuringly handsome pilots. We knew they were good looking because they'd often brush back cloth curtains to move about the cabin, chat and give lucky kids a pack of airline-emblazoned playing cards.
Best of all, you delivered fancy meals to people who were leaving behind cold New Jersey winters to go to Florida to visit their grandparents. I mean, really. Did it get any better?
The role of flight attendants has grown a great deal more serious, of course, and one bite of a barely thawed snackwich makes it hard to believe that fine dining and hot towels were once as standard as screening passenger sneakers for explosives.
As with the course of airline amenities, my journey also veered in a different direction: I have been a working writer for more than 30 years, first as a newspaper reporter, then as a state government communications director, and now as an editor (PhilanthropyJournal.org) and freelance food writer.
And yet, at the mid-point of a cross-country flight to attend the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle, I find myself considering similar obsessions. Food and drink will be a big part of my four-day visit, including a tour of one of Washington State's premiere wineries, Chateau St. Michelle. Instead of being awed by the flight crew - our stout male attendant was cheerless and stingy with the Biscoff cookies - I am giddy at the prospect of meeting keynote speaker Dorie Greenspan and presenter Kim O'Donnel. And I am eager to connect with food writers I know by social media avatar but wouldn't recognize if we bumped while reaching for the same sponsored food sample.
And while my long-gone grandparents will not be there to greet me, I will be met at the baggage carousel by Jennie Schacht, a first cousin I discovered by chance via Facebook about two years ago. The author of several successful cookbooks, she is the granddaughter of my grandmother's sister and my grandfather's brother - that's right, two sisters married two brothers. I never met or knew much about this close branch on the family tree due to a mysterious, almost 70-year rift that we think we've pieced together.
There are lots more Schachts, mostly on the west coast. I have been invited to have dinner with Jennie's parents, who are still stylish and vigorous in the 90s. I am bursting with anticipation. I will have been up about 18-plus hours (on three hours' sleep) by then and hope that I do not spoil this long-awaited moment by doing something goofy.
I've talked myself out of attending other costly food conferences but didn't even try with this one. The attraction of family, food and food writing - and in a great city like Seattle - was too much to resist. An IFBC survey indicates that many of the more than 300 registrants are just like me: writers with blogs and and big dreams.
In the past year, I have been fortunate to leverage my blog to land steady freelance work, first and most frequently with the award-winning alt-weekly INDY Week, which has a terrific editor and loyal readers. My slice of the food section includes personality profiles, quirky topics and the occasional restaurant review.
More recently, I have written a few pieces for The Local Palate, a lively new food and culture magazine out of Charleston, SC, and Our State, the beloved 80-year-old glossy that celebrates the best of North Carolina. I hope to eventually see my name on the pages of Edible Piedmont, which has been recognized for excellence by the Beard Foundation.
As a former newspaper reporter, I am comfortable with deadline writing and am especially looking forward to participating in IFBC's live blogging workshops. I'm interested in advice on how to beef up my blog and and make it a more effective resource for reaching new readers and editors. I trust I won't be the only one in renowned New York Times food photographer Andrew Scrivani's workshop with an aged point-and-shoot digital camera. Actually, I'm hoping it will be somewhat skewed to camera-phone technology as I'm considering upgrading soon to have better still- and video-image options.
And, needless to say, I look forward to the tasting events where sponsors will show off their products and services and, fingers crossed, want to make connectionsi with new voices. Upon recommendation of folks who have been to IFBC before, I have packed lightly to allow plenty of room for samples, swag and business cards.