It happened surprisingly easily: I was driving through Factoria with an easy-earned $125 in my pocket and a growing hunger in my belly. I felt weird and dreamy and passed by the restaurants of misc Asian flavor that would usually tempt me. When my car parked, I realized I had been mysteriously guided to the Old Country Buffet in the semi-deserted Factoria Mall.
I have talked about standard all-you-can-eat buffets from a vegetarian or vegan perspective in the past: They tend to more or less suck. It is hard to feel like you get your money's worth, and the quality protein options tend to be pretty limited. In addition, the buffet also has a pretty substantial unappetizing element that includes an excessive number of people touching, breathing on and fidgeting with your food before it becomes yours.
Something about this grossness and the simplicity of the food and the all-you-can-drink soda machine (who the hell is writing this???) were really a turn-on to me today.
And so I had a very leisurely solo, all-I-could-eat grossout lunch. I started with a big salad made out of spinach, garbanzo beans, sun flower seeds, Parmesan cheese, carrots, baby corn and radishes. I foolishly dressed it (thank god very lightly), in a "light ranch," that tasted about like spermy corn syrup.
For my main course, I somehow bypassed the endless pile of joe-joes and big vat of velveeta mac and cheese, and got some smoky stewed pinto beans from the "build your own nachos" bar, with a little nacho cheese sauce on top. I was excited to see the tray of "Steamed green Cabbage," and piled that on my plate, and also got half of a perfectly crispy, buttery velveeta grilled cheese sandwich.
As somebody who is generally pretty darn saddened by food waste and unnecessary over-abundance and people of unhealthy weights and processed food and nutritional ignorance and on and on, I was feeling pretty good. In fact, the largest stress I had as I ate was a pang that something was going to run out and I wouldn't be able to get seconds if I wanted to. And even that resolved into the relaxing realization that EVERYTHING WOULD BE REFILLED and I'd feel giddy and wonderful.
Usually I am an "eat what I take" type, and often suffer from "adventurous choices" that turn out disgusting and I feel emotionally stuck with eating them as the consequence. Not so today!
By dessert time I was well into the mindset of the OCB and I took a small sample of each of the desserts that appealed to me: cheese cake, coconut cream pie, peach cobbler, hot fudge cake, brownie, apple crisp and an albino turd of soft serve to enjoy at my leisure.
I took small bites, ate what I liked, and let the rest be whisked off by the fast moving AARP senora who did a great job of discerning the active plates from the duds.
Regarding the desserts: this might have been obvious to somebody in a sensible state of mind, but the only edible desserts were the apple crisp and the ice cream. All the rest tasted like fluffed crisco or extreme artificial flavor in one form or another.
You see a lot of interesting behaviors at the Buffet:
1. Kids dipping, dragging, smearing their fingers through anything they can reach
2. Grown ladies somehow justifying to themselves that discretely (I saw you!) serving themselves the ENTIRE crust off of a communal baked dessert is reasonable
3. Grown men in suits pissed that the non-fat-sugar-free-fro-yo machine isn't working.
After my meal, I sat in my booth for some time waiting for appetite #2 to roll around, but I just got fuller and fuller as I sat there and started to get grossed out as I watched kids abusing the butterscotch pump at the soft serve station. It became clear that the magic was wearing off, and I took a timely and gracious leave.