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There is little doubt that few of the reporters or others attending the International Fancy Food and Confection Show in New York City last week were focusing on the possible legal angles as they ate their way through the nearly 100,000 food and beverage products on display at the world’s largest specialty food event. But those perspectives were there if you wanted them. “Hey Legal Times, you should write about this,” shouted one enterprising vendor whose sharp eyes had spotted the newspaper’s name on my badge. Of course, I should have seen the connection. Every lawyer needs to know about the “Personalized Gigantic Gourmet Fortune Cookie” he was hawking. I slowly began to back away. But the crafty vendor didn’t give me time to run. “Lawyers would love to know about our products. They’re great for office gifts, going-away presents, parties, thank-you gifts for clients . . .” I stopped and sampled. And it was good. It’s an interesting concept: Think of those giant chocolate-chip cookies with fancy toppings and decorations except, well, it’s a fortune cookie, with a giant (you choose the message) fortune inside. It and an entire line of regular sized custom-made fortune and other fancy cookies, suitable for every holiday imaginable, from birthdays to bar mitzvahs, are available from Good Fortunes. (www.goodfortunes.com). What quickly became clear is that much of the success of individual fancy food manufacturers — the kind that sell their products to high-end outlets like Whole Foods or Sutton Place Gourmet — is the result of marketing: how items are displayed and pitched, not only in retail establishments, but also in the vast cavernous confines (294,000 square feet) of the Jacob Javits Center, where this show was held. A smart copyright lawyer could have a field day handing out cards for potential patent and copyright registration clients. That’s one of the reasons why Lt. Blender’s “Margarita in a Bag” (created by a former Marine) grabbed your attention. After all, it’s not every day you see a neon green Army jeep on display at a food show booth. And the margaritas were pretty tasty too. Great for law firm parties. (www.Ltblender.com) It was the display of the cookies with Sponge Bob on them that caught my eye at the appropriately named Color-a-Cookie booth. It’s not the cookie that’s unique but the flavored-food-coloring markers kids use to draw on them (as well as on frosted Pop Tarts, marshmallows, and even bagels). The company also offers a Tic Tac Dough Cookie Game. It’s a sandwich creme cookie sporting a tic tac toe board that you can play using the same markers. (www.coloracookie.com) Sometimes it’s the sheer elegant simplicity of a booth that can draw you in. That was the case at Nirmala’s Kitchen, which had stacked around the booth large steamer trunks bearing passport stamps, topped with large bowls of brightly colored spices, and set off by orchid arrangements. The booth and the food sold therein are the creation of Nirmala Narine, a charming woman who has used her international background (raised in Guyana, South America, with Indian roots) to develop a collection of exotic spices. At age six, she already was cooking entire meals for her family of 12, she says, in the process learning to grind her own spices. Her spice collections include assortments from Asia, Africa, the West Indies, Australia, and many other locales. Mixtures are also available, as are some exotic teas, including a tantalizing one called Elixirs of the Kama Sutra. (www.nirmalaskitchen.com). There was plenty more there to see and taste, but a word to the wise. If you ever should decide to attend one of these food shows (and they are open to the public for a $35 preregistration fee or $60 at the door), make sure you don’t eat beforehand and wear good walking shoes and an expandable belt; the shows are designed for you to eat your way through them. And most importantly, don’t forget your mother’s advice — don’t eat all the chocolate and junk food or there’ll be no room for the rest of the meal. And, when that meal can include fresh soups, pastas, shrimp, duck, plenty of delicious soy products, salsas, and just about anything else you can think of, that’s a big loss. Just think of it as a Saturday morning trip to the largest, fanciest Fresh Fields you’ve ever seen. As I rolled out of the building, I was reminded again of the legal issues at stake, and not simply because they search all bags to make sure you’re not removing any of the food from the premises. Crossing the parking lot, I was stopped by a guy offering me a sample bag of “Lesser Evil: Southwestern Popcorn with Pumpkin Seeds and Peppers,” a self-described “healthy, great tasting fun food.” (www.lesserevil.com). “Couldn’t afford the display fee inside?” I jokingly asked. “No,” he responded, in all seriousness. “They won’t let us in. Their regulations prohibit any company that hasn’t been in business for more than a year.” Damn lawyers. Alexander Wohl is a lawyer and writer in Washington, D.C.

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