The All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

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By Oliver Hektor

Today marks the day that I have decided never to step foot in an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant again. You may think that it had to do with the particular restaurant I went to. On the contrary, the new restaurant looked like a beautifully adorned grand banquet hall with wall to wall sumptuous entrees from sushi and dim sum to steak and crab legs. The patrons however were a little less than remarkable. One tiny elderly lady joined me in the Brazilian barbecue line where I waited patiently for one of the attendants. She looked at me and eagerly pointed to the small sausages. I nodded and called to one of the chefs to assist us and ordered a slice of top sirloin for myself. She curtly informed me that typically the person who is waiting in line first should be served first. Taken aback, I kindly informed her that I was waiting in line first but she denied it and indignantly turned her attention back to the meat attendant. Later at the dessert line, I opened the small glass sliding door where more than a dozen types of tiny delectable desserts stood wait. As I carefully chose my dessert and was removing it from the shelf, a woman opened the glass sliding door from the opposite end, bumping my wrist, causing my miniature mocha mousse cake to go kersplat on the counter. With a huff, she stomped over to the other side of me, impatiently waiting as I reached for a new cake. A few seconds later, an oversized woman towered over me in a different line as I used the small thongs to take a couple more items. She impatiently snatched the thongs as soon as I was done with them. Was I missing something here? This was an all-you-can-eat buffet where they served food all day. There was no impending cut-off time in which the restaurant would close the buffet lines or a time limit on how long you could sit in your table. Why were people so strangely impatient?

As I looked around, I saw people dodging to and fro with their plates and a determined look on their faces as they made a bee line for the food. They sat and inhaled their mound of food only to rush back to the buffet line two or three more times for more fodder. Close by were glassy-eyed waiters who stood and watched all the guests gorge themselves silly and would step in occasionally to ask, ‘Are you done with your plate ma’am?’ Some guests were overweight, some were downright obese, a few had terrible acne and still others just had an ill-favored look about them is all. I had a sickening feeling in my gut, and I don’t think it was from the sashimi. A feeling of disgust crept up on me as I took in this alien all-you-can-eat buffet culture. There is something inherently wrong with a system that asks you to come and shovel as much food as you want in one sitting for twenty bucks. Perhaps people are caught up in the idea of getting their money’s worth and then some. But if you look at it in another way, you are paying for a three-pound weight gain, indigestion and a lower self-esteem for eating like a bear going into hibernation. It just doesn’t seem to be all that worth it.

If I could describe the atmosphere of the buffet restaurant in one word, it’s manic. That is what happens when there is no official end to a meal and moderation goes out the window. Each bite is a different dish and all the flavors just mash together under the constant, frenetic mastication. I glanced up and saw a petite woman working on her dessert plate with a couple other semi-finished plates pushed aside. I was reminded of a music video I saw called ‘Wide Thing’ where an Asian with blue hair shovels bite after bite of crappy fast food in her mouth in order to appease her boyfriend who’s into big butts. By the end of the video, her butt is five times as big as before and her boyfriend nods approvingly.

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