My varsity-basketball playing high school on again off again boyfriend, Eric Mrkonic, introduced me to smorgasbord dining when I was sixteen. (Eric is nowadays referenced only as “Moronic” for one reason: He lived in his car after high school because he said he “liked to travel light”.) Of course after every basketball game, win or loose, since the beginning of time, we girlfriends dutifully followed our “team” for a full tray of orange-colored crusted “Mojo” (That name now only used by the arch nemesis in the Power Puff girl series.) potatoes, gluey spaghetti, stiff toss-able rolls, meatless tasting meatballs, torn lettuce garnished with French fried shaped bendable carrots and the ever-popular: cardboard pepperoni pizza. The word dieting was not in the vocabulary for any of us in the seventies, for sures, man. But we girls were not there for the food anyway so we seemed to pass through this period of our lives unscathed.
Now as of late I’ve been reintroduced to buffets, not thankfully by a reappearance of Moronic, (who I am told has carved a life for himself and his car and a few powerful crystals, in the city of Sedona) but by my wannabe waitress of a daughter. It happened without warning one night when we just happened to go out to dinner at a local restaurant.
It was buffet night. I dreaded a tasteless meal. I dreaded food that may have been only cooked via Bunsen burner. I dreaded the wax paper it would undoubtedly stick tenaciously to as it was spatulaed into my fresh from the dishwasher hot plate. I dreaded the lines for what was sure to be nothing but what I now considered a highly caloric negative payoff. Frankly, at my age, I plain just dreaded getting up to serve myself in a restaurant, little own repeatedly. I can’t even deal with salad bars if not in the proper mood to come face to face with the dreaded sneeze guard!
Innocent enough that first time with my seven-year-old, how was I to know that it was soon to become a once a week ritual? But Samantha, as always, registered my mood. She knew that she wouldn’t get me back there again without some slight inducements. I knew that the “newness” had to wear off eventually for her.
Not the case. She outwitted me once again by insisting on taking my order. She didn’t have a pen, or what seemed to be a long memory, as she could only come back to our table with one item per plate per trip. Of course the waiters didn’t care. And the chef/server ranking high on her list didn’t seem to mind either when she appeared for the fifth time for her own cheese enchilada. (Although maybe, do you think, if they didn’t slice a regular-sized enchilada in thirds she would have cut down on her trips to the buffet? You’d be wrong.)
Eddie got a huge kick out of it; trying to get her to remember three items at once. The waiter had a bemused look on his face when I mentioned she was cutting into his tip. For the first time ever at a buffet I figured I had finally gotten it right! I could get an enormous scoop of guacamole to go with my chips and have time to linger over it while watching her go back and forth in an ever-continuing attempt at entertainment and, fulfillment. I didn’t have to wait in line! I didn’t have to eat a full plate of food before I realized that I had had enough. And best of all, I didn’t have to get up for anything!
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I learned in a child safety class about giving increments of independence to your child, which would allow them, and you, confidence say the first time they wanted to cross a street alone. The first time Samantha braved the buffet we were at her side. The second time she went alone looking for an item she hadn’t previously selected and coming back to our table with a wide, satisfied smile as she held up a plate with nothing but croutons and ranch dressing. I will never forget that! She wasn’t bringing the car around just yet but I did let her pick up a peppermint at the hostess stand all alone and just out of my vision for thirty seconds, trusting that she wouldn’t jam a handful into her every ready squirrel-like cheeks.
Now that I have been seduced into trying this type of dining again I have noticed other restaurants popping up around town that share the same amenities. Sooner or later I think that the Bushman clan will have hit each one. I even ventured into the buffet line at the Disney lot recently, without a child in tow, but I realized later it was only the opportunity of buying a chocolate dipped Mickey-shaped rice Krispie treat that did it! And a later, I was starting to feel a little “Moronic” myself, when I ventured back into the warmth and safety and “lightness” of my Honda to eat it all up to my greatest satisfaction.
Eve of Destruction