Once I went to Vegas and gained five pounds in four days. I blamed the three-meals-a-day of buffets. Tables upon tables of all you can eat treats for hours on end. Why bother with a menu when all that food is readily available right here, right now at your fingertips and fork tines? You don’t have to worry about quality of service when it’s all in your hands to promptly pile pounds of meats, casseroles, and pasta salads on your platter. And another great tip! No tipping required!! The word buffet is believed to have originated in France, with its meaning loosely translating to buttfat. But really, what is it about a buffet that compels reasonably sane people to repeatedly heap infinite fodder on their plates like they’re death row inmates dishing up their last meal? I think buffets are often considered the bargain basement of restaurants, providing loads of high-fat, low-priced food designed for high-volume consumption. We want to get our money’s worth, and we don’t want to miss a thing. My three all-time favourites are: 3. The Chinese Laundry, with its breaded almond chicken, wor wonton soup and ginger beef. 2. The Great Wall was my second home during my first pregnancy. Baby just had to have her daily dish of lemon chicken, garlic ribs and pork chop suey. But the prize for the Mother of all Buffets goes to… 1. Mama Panda, an homage to all things deep fried. First, I like to scope out a good booth. Something a little quiet and out of the way so I can enjoy excessive amounts of “deep-fry” without scrutiny. Then, I sidle up to the first buffet table and scoop the wontons out of the soup pot and place them directly on my plate. I realize this is obnoxious and unmannerly, but I also believe the very nature of buffets allows permission to indulge with abandon. Next, the onion rings and French fries, potato and macaroni salads, deep-fried chicken drumettes, lasagne with garlic toast and roast beef and gravy. Oops! Don’t forget the chick peas and baby corns. There’s healthy stuff here too, you know! And on to the next table for deep-fried battered shrimp, three types of chow mein, shrimp fried rice, fried green and black beans, egg rolls, spring rolls, garlic ribs, deep-fried tofu, deep-fried curry crisps, deep-fried other stuff… and so on. My plate is stacked tall and deep. Deep-fried, that is. I smile at a sign posted above one of the buffet tables that issues a motherly caution to not take more than you can eat! As if!! All that’s ever left on my plate is a pile of gnawed up bones and a crumpled wad of greasy napkins. But first, I must make a beeline for my booth, avoiding eye contact with jaw-dropping customers who can’t believe the size of my, um, plate, which is in proportion to the size of my, um, butt. Oh, where to start? I just begin at the top and work my way down from there. And where to finish? Yes, the dessert table. Gingerbread cake with ice cream, lemon pie, chocolate squares, whipped cream and gooey filling-stuff nestled on graham wafer crust, covered in chocolate shavings. Wash it all down with two large tumblers of sugary-sweet iced tea and I’m pretty much done. Can you imagine if I ordered all this stuff from the menu? How embarrassing! Sadly, I haven’t been to Mama Panda in a long while. My beloved buffet has become a burden of abundance. Although it’s my intention to lose weight, get fit and be healthy while living full and not depriving myself, I’m not sure I am adequately prepared to change my behaviour when confronted with bottomless pits of sweet and sour pork. When faced with the dilemma of 200 ways to eat deep-fry, could I choose my food and portions modestly and moderately? Would I feel cheated out of my $13 if I didn’t eat my weight in egg rolls? It’s too easy to overindulge when nobody knows how many of these and how much of that you ate. The anonymity of hiding behind a wall of chicken wings leaves me terribly vulnerable. And until I get it figured out, I’ll have to put the buffet on the backburner and settle for an order of 1B.
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