Sunday, September 19, 2010
Defending a dirty word
I bet you want to know what word we're talking about here. Sorry if it disappoints, but the word in question is buffet. In modern parlance, buffet has become a dirty word. I'm sure your first thoughts on hearing it were cheap, low quality food, all you can eat options encouraging gluttony and laziness. I'd like to present some arguments that support the institution of the buffet though. Try to have an open mind and bear with me on this one.
Buffets can offer some definite advantages, and not just the ones that you think of. Sure, you get more choices and options when you're at a buffet. This advantage in itself can mean a night without arguments if you're dining with kids or whiny adults. :) There are other advantages you should consider too, though.
Freshness: When you order a regular entree at a restaurant, you hope that it was freshly prepared, but don't know. When you're eating at a buffet, you can look at a tray, see it's almost empty, and assume it has been out there for a while. Then you can choose to pass it by until they bring out a fresh pan (you might have to be quick if it's a really popular item, though). You can also see freshness on things like wilted lettuce in salad bars, congealed sauces on dishes, etc.
Quality: One of my pet peeves is ordering food that is fried, but instead of having a nice crisp bite, I get something soggy. Buffets let me avoid that. It is easy to tell with a quick tap of the spoon or tongs whether the food is still crispy, or if it has gotten (or always was) soggy. Vegetables are the same way. Before putting them on my plate, I can test to see whether they are still crisp/firm, or if they've been overcooked.
Spontaneous Choices: How often have you seen or smelled something someone else was eating and instantly wanted some? Pictures and descriptions on a menu just aren't the same thing. At a buffet, you have the extra input of sight of the actual food, not a picture, and the smell to go with it. You might suddenly realize that while you thought you wanted chicken, the only thing that would really hit the spot is that delicious smelling mongolian beef you see on the other side of the buffet.
Now, are buffets perfect? Of course not. But try to consider the previous points next time you're in a buffet, and realize that there are some real advantages to this way of selling food. As to the amount of food? Just use some self restraint. I'm bad about that myself at times, but you have no one to blame but yourself. Find the best items they have and enjoy quality, not quantity, even if it is a buffet.