If you’ve been to a meeting in one of our major cities that starts at 9 a.m. or before, you’ve seen something that looks an awful lot like this spread. It’s the generic conference room breakfast. You grab a plate, bleary-eyed, and shuffle on down the line.
There are certain staples. There’s coffee, of course, with sugar packets and little plastic creamers and plastic stirrers. Sometimes the coffee will have a little name plate telling you the type of bean being roasted, but more often it’s just coffee, period, served in a generic metal dispenser where you push down the big button at the top and the coffee gushes out into a generic paper coffee cup. Who cares about the blend? We’re here for a meeting, and we just want the caffeine.
If it’s a top of the line spread, there will be bottles of juice, but more often the drink options are coffee, coffee, coffee, water from a pitcher, and cans of soda. If you don’t want to pump yourself full of coffee, you can enjoy an early morning Sprite instead.
Of course, there are always bagels galore, with some pats of butter, little tins of creamed cheese, and containers of jelly. The serving platter usually features some baked goods like muffins or scones, too. And, because we might conceivably want to eat healthier, there’s some sliced melon, and grapes, and a few other fruits tossed in to make the plate look colorful.
And sometimes there’s something, well, odd. In this edition of the generic conference room breakfast that I encountered yesterday morning in Manhattan, there was a large bowl of hard pretzels. Pretzels? A chance to fill the blood vessels with salt at 9 a.m.? Not exactly the breakfast of champions, but it was New York.
Is all of this food even edible, or is some of it plastic? Does the stuff that isn’t consumed — which usually is about 95 percent of it — get recycled or donated to the nearest homeless shelter? How many businesses In New York City, and Washington, D.C., and Boston, are dependent upon baking up those generic bagels, and brewing that generic coffee?