What is the first Washington International Food Show at the Cap Centre?

Is it a place to buy food and equipment? To sample food? To watch cooking and equipment demonstrations? To have lunch?

It's a little bit of all those things, which many first-day visitors found "wonderful," "terrific," "great."

It was not enough of any of those things for some others who considered the $2.50 parking and $4.50 entrance fee, not to mention the gas, a waste of money. "I've seen it all before," said one cook who expected to find new ideas for cooking and new equipment.

For the majority, who had come to stand in line for free samples of McDonald's hamburgers, Pizza Hut pizzas, Maryland red crabs in Bad News Barbecue Sauce, Breyers Ice Cream, Vie de France bread, Imperial Margarine on party rye, or potato chips, or to watch a Chinese cooking demonstration, a popcorn popper pop, a cake being decorated, an electric cookie- and canape-maker make cookies and canapes, a convection oven bake bread, a food processor process, this was just what they wanted.

At this new kind of consumer show, following after garden shows, boat shows, automobile shows and recreational vehicle shows, visitors could also sign up for a franchise to distribute dried foods, or buy a complete set of waterless cookware over skatey-eight months, or purchase a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

And you can watch the kind of equipment demonstrations usually reserved for television, especially just before Christmas. There is the knife that slices absolutely everything; a shredder-grater-slicer that takes care of what little the knife can't do; a cream that removes every stubborn grease stain that ever was baked into an oven over a three-year period. If you like it, you can buy it, too, for hard cash or cool plastic.

Some other things are for sale; pottery, antique furniture, dinette sets, spices, chutney, cannoli, strudel.

But there is no place to sit down for a meal and there isn't anything that can be considered a meal. That surprised a lot of people who had been planning to eat lunch at the show.

If your feet really give out, the bleachers, which usually hold sports fans, are available, along with periodic cooking demonstrations by Southern Living Cooking School. And you do get a bag with coupons, two Kraft macaroni-and-chese dinners and a cook book.

If you take all the coupons and all the free samples at the show you can probably break even after you've paid for parking, admission and gas.

The show is open today from noon to 10 p.m. and from noon to 8 p.m. tomorrow. It is being put on by TJS Productions, an Alexandria company which does show promotions. Company president, Tom Stafford, hopes for 60,000 paying visitors. That should more than offset his estimated costs of $250,000.