Gimme Buffet

I love a dinner buffet. I mean, who wouldn’t? With unerring efficiency, you pick up the amount of food you will eat, as well as the varieties you want. No suspense in waiting to see your size portion or getting a weird mini-corn cob or something else on your plate that looks suspicious, unless you like suspicious-looking food on your plate, and in that case, have at it.

Really, the only downside with a buffet is the ungodly amounts that large hotel chains charge for them sometimes. As if hotel restaurant food wasn’t expensive enough. But I understand. They have a wide audience, and who knows how much people will eat? Still, I’m wondering why they can’t price it more like the hometown smorgasbord who serves to people who eat like the people do who came up with the word “smorgasbord.”

My dear friend Barb is an exception, though. She’s not a buffet fan. She’s an epidemiologist, and a buffet to her is like a jump drive to a secure government facility, or like social media to protective parents of teenagers, which is to say that they represent a tool of Satan, sent to rend the fabric of society and continue the process of the destruction of the human species. If she had the choice of installing buffets everywhere or seeing the birth of Skynet, she’d go for the latter, although mostly because she’s a wonderfully gentle soul who doesn’t watch the type of movies that refer to Skynet and hence probably has no idea what that is.

I made the mistake asking her one time, “What’s so bad about a buffet?” It was sorta like asking W.C. Fields what’s so bad about children. She said, “You know those sneeze screens over the food?” Sure, I said. “Who has the runniest noses around? Kids. And they don’t reach up to the sneeze screen.” I said thanks at that point, because we’re friends and don’t always need verbalization to communicate, and I could tell I’d just heard Reason 1 of 814, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be enlightened with any other examples of bodily fluids traveling across the food landscape.

But I am as fearless with food as I am stupid with it, as attested to in another posting in this blog (and where we first met my epidemiologist friend). Grandma and I went to a casino in a gambling town not too far away. We’re not gamblers, but we’d been out and exploring some mountain trails, and we wanted to stop for a nice romantic evening. We got a hotel room and heard that they had food in the casino.

It was a buffet. A seafood buffet. I love seafood! Not having learned from the experiences of that other posting, or Barb’s sage counsel, I declared it was just the ticket, and we went there. The price wasn’t bad, and the selection was pretty nice. They even had oysters on the half shell. Grandma demurred on that one, because she has limits for her food.

I do not. I ate the offerings with mucho gusto. Grandma started off fine but then started picking at her food. She said she didn’t like it all that much. “What’s not to like?” I asked as an oyster slid down my throat. My question was answered a bit later.

We finished and left. I said something wasn’t settling well. Inside my body, scattered around the highway of my gastrointestinal tract, bits of seafood were gathering, murmuring in discontent. But it was the oysters who were the real rabble-rousers. They were saying to the assembling throngs, “We don’t like him! Let’s make him not like us!”

We made our way through the casino. As I said, we don’t gamble, but we do like to people-watch, but not that night. I was sending the alimentary riot police, with their shields and nightsticks, to quell the unruly crowd within.

Finally, outside the casino, by a footbridge going over a stream, we stopped. I complained that I just didn’t feel well. Grandma comforted me, but comfort can only do so much. The crowd outside was thankfully thin. I finally bent over and despoiled the pretty display of flowers and ornamental bark placed by the bridge, presumably by the City of Blackhawk. I’m sorry, Blackhawk. I hope it rained soon after. If it’s any consolation, it wasn’t left by some overly blindly drunk guy. I’m guessing, though, that it’s not consolation.

We made our way to the hotel, where I spent the next two hours in fevers, cold sweats, and pounded by vicious dreams. Finally, about 3 a.m., I found my way in two successive and pained journeys to the porcelain bowl, where the last of the rioters rushed up and out. That did the trick, and with no more obstreperous protesters to deal with, I slept much better.

So. Buffets. I’m sure that millions of people have spent their entire lives enjoying them and staying contaminant-free. And still at an event or at home, we certainly partake in and offer food buffet-style. But to walk into an establishment with food that’s been out for an undetermined time, passed by and rooted through by an untold number of people? I don’t know what common sense says about that, but Barb and my explosive experiences argue otherwise. I’ll pass. Better now than later.

— Grandpa

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