A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chinese Buffet Anonymous

One of our blogger buddies wrote about his experience and observations on the restaurant phenomena known as the Chinese buffet. Not quite fast food, but not quite formal dining (okay, it’s nowhere near formal dining), it has exploded in popularity for those of us who crave the choice of variety. His observations were, as always, keen and profound. The comments on his writing demonstrated that a sizable portion of our blogging audience turn those noses up at this monument to gastric excess.

So I confess: my name is Todd and I am addicted to Chinese buffets. I know these wanton forays into sudden caloric excess aren’t necessarily good for me, but that’s the reason why I limit my visits to once a month. I also try other limitations within my monthly visit. I will stay one hour and no more, even if I am still hungry. One hour is just enough time for me to satisfy my appetite, so admittedly I am very seldom wanting for more at the end of my time.

I also strive to limit my trips from the table. If there are three warming tables, then I try to only do one plateful per table. Okay, admittedly, in the past I have returned to my table with my platefuls stacked two or three inches high. I realize that some may find boneless spare ribs on top of the General Tso’s chicken unappetizing, but I remind them that they are not eating from my plate. I am the only one eating from my plate and I don’t have to answer to anyone.

I also learned a trick from one of the Eat This, Not That volumes. The author advises to wait ten minutes to give your brain time to receive the message that the stomach is full. If you are still hungry after that time, then by all means, help yourself to more.

In any case, I go to the buffet not so much for the vast variety of Chinese food, but to satisfy my craving for peel-n-eat shrimp. I spend the first ten minutes of my hour long visit shelling these succulent bottom feeders. Then I lovingly coat each one with cocktail sauce before it is chewed up in my mouth and pounded into liquid form by the digestive juices in my stomach.

Sorry if my description of seafood consumption is a bit graphic, but how do think the poor shrimp feel?

Unfortunately, not everything at a Chinese buffet is necessarily Chinese in origin. My fellow bloggers have noted with some degree of alarm the presence of sushi at these buffets, but that was just the beginning of an invasion of foods foreign to the stir fry wok kingdom. Pepperoni pizza? French fries? Beef roast? Salmon? None are strictly Chinese in origin, but I’ve seen all of these on buffets here in the east. Go figure!

In this context, the inclusion of sushi does not seem that radical anymore. As to which came first, the Chinese buffet or morbid obesity, I can only speak for myself. The medical world most likely placed me in the morbid obese category 20 years ago before this restaurant genre came into vogue. True, we did have the steak house buffets of yore, and I miss their variety of food terribly. Someone mentioned the Sizzler chain which, sadly, is nothing more than a memory for those of us on the east coast. There is one in the entire state of New York, a handful of outlets in Florida, but otherwise there are no Sizzler restaurant between here and…Nebraska! Arizona has six Sizzlers within its borders. Lucky!

Okay, so buffets are cheap, and people feel that they have to tank up to get their money’s worth. Blame this on the consumer self-righteous belief that they deserve the full value of whatever they choose to spend their hard earned money. This is no different than when we buy clothes, cars, or real estate. We all want the biggest bang for our bucks, so why should buffets be any different.  

With that said, I should note that restraint on the individual’s part can be utilized. Discipline is always possible, but not always practiced.

I hasten to add in my defense of the lowly buffet that this is one of my favorite words of the English language. Perhaps my definition veers a bit too closely to Rosalind Russell’s declaration of a banquet in Auntie Mame (“Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!"), but the sentiment is similar. My contribution to this canon: Life is a buffet and we should return as many times as we can to experience all that life can give us.

Did I really just expand a one hour food orgy into a larger metaphor for living? As a matter of fact, I just did!

(Thank you for reading! Dim sum anyone?)


Anonymous Janey, Queen of the Chinese Buffet said...

Dear RTG,

Once again, I find your writing to be lively and witty; your digressions, tangents, and analogies had me laughing out loud (and you know what that sounds like) several times.

Just last evening, I took my friend, JP, to our local Pottstown Chinese Buffet, to thank him for his assistance with home repairs. He will not accept money for his many labors, only marijuana and free meals at the Buffet. Anyone out there catching the connection?
(Like RTG and myself, my buddy JP is a gradute of Bloomsburg University, where such life-long habits are born.)

We hold to a three-plate limit (no rules on how high the plate may or may not be stacked), plus dessert. I strive to put a green vegetable on each plate. I eat a medley of foods that are not usually consumed in a single meal. (I always conclude with Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, which also reminds of my college days at Bloomsburg, when I finished every meal at the student cafeteria with a bowl of Mint Chip. What could have possibly inspired such insatiable cravings?) JP drops me off at my door, and we each then endure our versions of gastointestinal distress for well into the next day. But we love it.

May 13, 2014 at 10:00 PM  
Anonymous Janey said...

Note how I am a "graduate" of Bloomsburg University, yet I misspelled the word in the message above. What have I been smoking? :-)

May 13, 2014 at 10:03 PM  
Blogger David Jeffreys said...

I do my best to stay away from buffets these days due to my obesity, and diabetes. Increased problems with ambulation now make it easier to stay away because who can carry all those plates to the table.

I have always loved Chinese buffets, especially when they had crab legs included at no extra cost. Now my Chinese food only comes from the great local take out "Main Moon" which has great combination plates consisting of your choice of entree, pork fried rice, and egg roll. Of course I always get egg drop soup to wash it down.

My favorite buffets though have been Golden Corral here in NC. Don't know if they have them elsewhere. They have hot tables of beef dishes, chicken dishes (love the dumplings), loads of vegetables, seafood hot bar, biggest salad bar you have ever seen, the best yeast rolls ever, and a dessert bar. Most of it is cooked southern style like the fried okra. No one that I know has ever made from scratch mashed potatoes like they have. Oh and they even have soups. Don't go there anymore because I can't leave without consuming at least 5 to 10 thousand calories per visit!

Now I just stay home, cook and eat more sensibly. And that is just as good, maybe even better!

May 13, 2014 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger slugmama said...

Hubs and I ended up late on Mother's Day at a Chinese Buffet nearby.....things just worked out that way.

There are only a couple of dishes I like anymore in that style of cuisine and to my dismay, come to find out, this particular venue stopped serving one of them.

I ate slowly and found I could only eat 1 plate of food....and no, it wasn't piled up to resemble Mt. Fuji.

An hour later much to my dismay yet again, I experienced an assplosion extraordinary. Not sure if it was due to my last meal or the burger the previous day at a suspect Chili's.....I don't think my digestive tract is THAT fast so the Perp was probably the ground cow.

So I will happily eat Chinese buffet another day, but not for awhile.

May 15, 2014 at 11:03 PM  
Blogger Ur-spo said...

In phoenix the chinese buffets have sushi, pizza, and various Mexican dishes.

May 18, 2014 at 12:17 AM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you, Janey for your thoughts and letting me know that there is at least another buffet which I didn't know existed.

Hi David1 Sorry to hear that your Chinese buffet days are over. We have Golden Corrals too, but they're just beyond a comfortable driving distance for us.

Thanks for writing, Slugmama. I've had a few experiences like that after a buffet outing, but it doesn't happen every time I go. I also try to avoid the deep fried food table on my recent visits, but I will sample the fried dumplings.

I'm not surprised at the inclusion of Mexican food in your area, Ur-spo. I'd guess that every buffet in the country gives some sort of accommodation for local cuisine to broaden their appeal. Yet, my mind reels at the possibilities of a mixed Chinese/Mexican dish could offer. Sweet and sour chicken taquitos? Just thinking out loud....

May 18, 2014 at 6:45 PM  
Blogger Harpers Keeper said...

Hi Todd! Ive been known to fancy a wonton foray myself and I suspect I probably drag Spo there more often than the reverse

June 3, 2014 at 11:02 PM  

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