Old Country Buffet
I can’t hide the fact that I’m a food snob any longer. What’s the
point? I will eagerly try new things, but I am very sure of what I
like, and what I don’t. I know that there are starving children
everywhere, and that I should be grateful for whatever food I get, but
I just can’t get behind that idea. I believe that in dire situations
the average person will eat anything to survive. I also believe that in
dire situations I, however, will die a death of starvation, or
dehydration first. I found out in the Amazon that I am NOT the survivor
I thought I was, and that I will quietly die before eating much of
something I truly hate.
Unfortunately, consideration for other people has clouded my judgment
more than once, and this subject of ‘courtesy eating’ is a matter where
this is especially tender. First of all, I have a weakness for the
elderly, I love them. They are interesting, they couldn’t care less
what people think, and they have the kind of wisdom that you just can’t
get from books. When I have the time, which I have very little of, I go
to lunch or dinner with them, and usually try to recruit a peer to give
this a shot as well. And so it went in Alexandria, Virginia when I was
there with my brother last year. I made a b-line for an elderly man in
the congregation we attended named Vernon, (I’m changing his name to
tell this) and asked if I could make him dinner. He declined, sighting
his limited diet, and not wanting to be much trouble. Everyone who
knows me knows that I do not give up easily, and so I asked him if
there was a restaurant that my brother and I could take him to (yes, my
brother was drafted). He went on about not being a bother, but after
some time confessed that he really loved the “Old Country Buffet.”
I hate buffets. I had not ever heard of the ‘Old Country Buffet,” but I
hated every single word in the title. I hate eating food from bins. I
hate people standing over food in a line, it is very Oliver Twist for
me. I can’t stand the randomness of buffets, how there is always a
combination of jello, salad, fish sticks, eggs, country fried steak,
and pudding? The combined smell of this appetizing array of lukewarm
food leaves the entire building smelling like a garbage disposal. I
hate that buffets seem to attract the worst of every race that society
has to offer.
When I broke the news to my brother, and believe me I tried steering
Vernon away from this idea, he couldn’t stop laughing. He hadn’t heard
of the “Old Country Buffet” either. I openly hate buffets, and “Old
Country Buffet” pretty much sounded like their king.
“Sounds like they have a lot of gravy,” he said, knowing my take on buffets and everything they stand for, including gravy.
He decided to find the place, and take me over there before we picked up Vernon, just so I could pre-hate it.
“Get your stomach ready!” my brother said somewhere in his devious laughter.
I decided then and there this would take some serious prayer. But
what exactly do you ask God at this moment, ‘please help me not to be
the ungrateful snob I know myself to be?’ ‘ Please help me to not vomit
at the table when I attempt to eat this?’
We picked up Vernon, and he was ecstatic, while I tried not to look
like I was about to be executed. When we arrived there, I quickly
noticed that “Old Country Buffet” lived up to its title. It had met all
the expectations I assumed it would. It smelled like food that had
already been eaten, there were people in lines over food, and nearly
every race had sent at least one person to this restaurant as their
worst possible representative.
I tried, I really tried my best to like being there. I went through the
line, picked out whatever I thought I could keep down, and went to the
Vernon was in his buffet glory by the time I got to the table. It
wasn’t even 11am, and he was eating some sort of soft meat with thick,
mucousy gravy, and green beans. His teeth were out, and he was gumming
his food with the pleasure of a toddler over cake. I looked over
Vernon’s shoulder, and know that I wouldn’t and couldn’t make this up,
and there was a significantly overweight, caucasian male with
suspenders on. He had no shirt on, but did have enough back hair to
make a decent case as a a shirt stand in. His black hair was greasy and
slicked to his head, maybe he thought he was all dressed up. So that
image sealed the deal for me. I knew there was no way I wouldn’t throw
this meal up, so I improvised.
My brother, who has no shame, just flat out didn’t eat his food.
However, I felt the need to be polite and pretended to eat it. I even
fake chewed, which is how you know I’m completely crazy. I put this
food bit by bit into my napkin in my lap. I did well, faking for
Vernon, but this did not escape the cynical eyes of my brother who
couldn’t wait to see how I’d handle this buffet situation.
He leaned over and whispered to me, “Do you think your napkin is still hungry? I could get you seconds.”