At the buffet

Published 1:06 pm Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You just get what you want.

Maybe you can call me a buffet snob, maybe I avoid restaurants with the word buffet in its title because I lack self control, maybe I like sitting and having someone serve me for a change, or maybe I enjoy life’s surprises even when it involves ordering something from a regular restaurant that sounded good on the menu but once it entered my mouth my taste buds said no way!

Possibly you are one of the millions that hit the buffet lines, especially after a church service, and you love the benefits of multi-choice entrees and veggies all laid out before you at reasonable prices. There is nothing wrong with a buffet lover unless you are going there for quantity of food and your seatbelt is not fastening as it is. Then you are a like the drunk stopping at the local bar and you both have a problem. Just say no to the buffet!

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Senior adults love buffets. Sometimes that is all they will go out to eat and they will completely avoid menu driven restaurants. Granny, my mother-in-law who still gets her silver hair teased every Saturday morning by her young seventy-plus hair dresser, always grumbles when we try to stretch her horizons and take her out to one of our restaurants.

Her favorite quote is “Why go there when at the buffet you can get what you want?” If she doesn’t like what she gets, she can go back for another plate.

When family members plan gatherings at O’Charleys, Chili’s, or Logan’s Steak house she goes into a full blown anxiety attack. “What will I order? What do they have? Why can’t we go to a buffet where I can get what I want?”

Very rarely do we get her into our restaurant setting and if anyone’s food isn’t right or it’s served too cold, its Granny’s. This reinforces her phobia of the menu restaurant and makes it even more difficult for future trips. Should we give up? Where is the fun in that?

My problem with buffets in general is that too many of them lack quality food and opt for the cheaper version with no taste. But not all thankfully go for the bland because I have found a few that know how to put flavor in their home cookin’ recipes.

When I find one that has tasty food, then I go to the second gripe on my checklist: As a mother of twins I end up working harder at a buffet feeding my family than I do at home. At least the stove is a few steps away, at the buffet I have to maneuver and swerve, wait for the person who doesn’t know which way the line is supposed to go, traffic control my son as he follows me to the pans of food as he ponders the decisions of fried chicken or fried fish, and then as I finally settle down to eat my plate of food, it’s time for something else for the twins. My husband is helpful, but kids love to ask momma and I am trained to jump up. Think about it, they eat salad, entrees and dessert, so counting myself and the boys that makes a minimum of nine trips! I need to leave myself a tip!

Although, lately Cade has begun training his father to get up during the family meal by scolding him, saying that mom has to do all the work at dinner. It’s so rewarding having my son defend me and that he actually noticed that I am hopping up continuously like most mothers across America. Dads do want to help but literally go deaf at the requests of children. Not anymore at Tracy’s buffet and home cookin’! Cade insists that Dad do his part. My husband doesn’t resent the intrusion at all and actually enjoys doing his daddy duty.

Can we blame the popularity of buffets contributing to America’s obesity problem? Or, is the popularity of buffets a result of our obesity problem? Either way, the road to fat is paved with multiple plate excursions at the local buffet.

Buffets encourage our high caloric intake by allowing us to not only fill up one plate of food, but two or three. We think we need a little of this, and a little of that and before we know it, we have ingested three meat servings, several vegetables and most definitely something fried. Plus, readily available desserts follow every meal. When most of us deny ourselves the sweet ending at a menu restaurant, we find ourselves grabbing the little saucier and filling it up with a little of this and a little of that at the buffet.

Unfortunately, there will be too much of this and too much of that in all of our pants if we keep that pace up for too long.

Buffets are great for family gatherings where no one has to cook and clean and we can all meet up and get what we like because deciding on a menu restaurant limits selections on the types of food available.

Church congregations continue their fellowship after their worship session by gathering at their local buffet.

So, maybe the buffet mentality takes us back to pot luck suppers at our churches and family reunions where we gather, fill our plates multiple times and visit with cherished loved ones while enjoying life’s abundant blessings.

Maybe buffet eating is comfort eating and that isn’t so bad. At least there is a sneeze guard at the buffet, because at home, church and reunions it’s germ roulette.

Tracy Williams is a guest columnist and can be reached at her website: