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Old Country Buffet

Updated on April 22, 2010

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 table.

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."


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    • ahostagesituation profile image

      SJ 6 years ago

      KKG, I astound myself with what I'll eat these days, but if I get the choice, I will NEVER choose a buffet. I'll shut up and eat it if I have to, but I'll never pick a buffet over a real restaurant meal in this lifetime. ;-) Thanks for stopping by!

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Buffets are not exactly my favorite place to eat. I've seen children pick food up out of the containers with their hands and people of all sizes sneeze, and cough in the direction of the food.

    • ahostagesituation profile image

      SJ 6 years ago

      JG, yeah you think you might want to eat out all the time, until you do. We went all over the place, mostly ethnic restaurants in traditional dining setting, but a few buffets. And, yes, at least I can cook now.

      Rochelle, isn't my brother awful? I love him! The house special that day happened to be Plethora and onions. You could get a disdain-based sauce to go with, but it was extra. To be honest, I tend to be in a group of some sort when I go out, and if a buffet is really someone's preference I will go without complaint. It won't kill me. I won't ruin their good time. But the words, "I know this great little buffet we could all go to," will never leave my face. Thanks for reading this goofy story, Rochelle! And I'm happy to read your hub. I'm going away in August with friends and family and that's going to be the buffet Olympics. Might as well train...;-)

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country

      Kind of your brother to take you early so you could "pre-hate it". I enjoyed the way you wrote this, and your descriptions were good enough to make me avoid this one completely.

      I agree that the 'bargain' ones are the worst and gravy should be avoided, since it can cover up a plethora of evils. (Did they have any plethora?-- it sounds like an organ meat.)

      Maybe you just need a little buffet training. I wrote a hub on how to eat a buffet, if you think you might reconsider.

      Great job on this.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Aha! If eating out was the norm rather than the exception, I can see why you'd avoid buffets. At least you can cook now!

    • ahostagesituation profile image

      SJ 6 years ago

      Ha!! Agreed. I've been to pricey buffets, and don't like those either, though. If I'm at 40 dollars a plate for breakast (and have been), I really do not want to "scoop" anything out of anywhere. I went to a buffet exactly like this, breakfast at 40 a plate, not a pair of suspenders in sight, but it's just not my thing. I might as well hit fast food if I'm gonna do buffet. I lived in a place once where no one ever cooked, and all we ever did was eat out. I met up in some pretty expensive buffets...and then started cooking at home. I just don't like it at all.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I'm not QUITE as picky as you about food, but AM picky about which buffets I'll set foot in, and OCB is not one of them. It's been my experience the higher the per-person price, the better groomed (and slimmer) your fellow diners will be. When the ppp is lower than anywhere else in town, might as well hand customers a bucket and let 'em scoop their vittles out of a common trough, because they're there for QUANTITY not quality, and dress accordingly.