Friday, February 22, 2008

But It's All-You-Can-Eat, Mr Bumble !!

Sometimes I eat just to fill my stomach. I don't really care what I eat at such times as long as it's something from my short list of 'things wot I like to eat.'

I don't often stop to think how lucky I am to live in a society where I can have this gastronomic luxury when millions less fortunate than me simply want to eat to survive.

Of course this also applies to many other luxuries that we in the so called developed countries take for granted. We seem to accumulate more and more 'necessities' every year and so widen the gap between the haves and the have nots. That's the whole basis of innovation and invention as quite often the item that gets developed is a pure luxury item and even if it seems to make our lives a little easier, it can't be classed as a necessity. And yet often we do.

We often hear the phrase 'I don't know what I did without it' when talking about some new purchase. We've been saying that recently about the GPS device Deb bought Dennis at Christmas. It's wonderful and very helpful and may be the bestest Christmas pressie in the world........ever !!

Now we can get lost not only by our own stupidity but also thanks to some electronic glitch in the GPS software. We also know exactly how far lost we are, how long it will take us to become unlost and where to find the nearest McDonalds so we can have a Happy Meal while discussing our lostness. I'd call that innovation.

If those people on that island had such technology, well I guess the show would not be called Lost for a start. Maybe 'A Bit Lost' or 'Lost, But We Know Just Where We Are Too'. Not very snappy.

Anyway I just wanted to focus on food for this post. I may return to the joys of GPSing another time - especially after I get home and buy one myself. Well it's a necessity after all and will be very handy for finding my way to the smelly aisle in Sainsburys for a start. I wonder if it could guide Leeds United back to The Championship this season ? It's asking a lot.

So back to food. On Wednesday evening we went out to eat and when asked for my choice of eatery, I had a mental meltdown and suggested the Golden Corral in nearby Lake Placid. Oh dear.

The Golden Corral is to food what Hitler was to universal peace and harmony in Western Europe circa 1939-1945. Well that's not quite fair actually. Hitler was a power crazed madman long before 1939.

And again to be fair, the GC does serve up some reasonable quality food. It's just that it serves up a LOT of reasonable quality food. It's a buffet chain you see, a concept totally alien to those outside America. For a one off payment, you can eat all you want from an incredible selection of food items and as soon as I stepped through the doors, I realised I'd made a horrible mistake.

I have no willpower when it comes to food. I've no idea why I'm not obese. I've a very good idea why I'm overweight and 2 heart attacks don't seem to have altered my approach to eating very much. Bypass surgery and a daily plethera of pills seem to have given me the idea that all is now well internally and so I can eat what I jolly well want.

Well if I keep going to places like the Golden Corral, those words will soon be carved on my headstone.

I'm like a deer caught in some lingering set of headlights. I KNOW I shouldn't be eating there but I just can't help myself. I think the contestants on The Biggest Loser should be taken there as a test sometime to see how they get on. I may go in with the best of intentions (I mean it does have a salad bar after all) but I always come out with those intentions blown all to hell and with a stomach groaning under the newly arrived weight of 2500 calories. Even then I look back fondly at the dessert counter and actually want to pop back to take a last cookie on the way to the car.

Oh it's such a devilishly enticing smorgasbord.

So last Wednesday I'm sitting there again, cutting into a fresh slab of sirloin steak with mashed potatoes, gravy and bbq spare ribs on the side when visions of Africa form in my mind. I can't even enjoy overeating without these sobering images penetrating my consciousness.

It's all that bloody Bob Geldorf's fault you know. We didn't have poverty and starvation before he came along.....and told us about it. Damn you Bob. Sir Bob I mean. Sorry.

I look around me and see half finished meals being scraped away while the customer goes back to the troughs to fill up a fresh plate. I mean why eat some food item that has gone a bit cold when there is plenty more of it hot and steaming just a few feet away ?

And then I do the very same myself !!! My mashed tatters have gone cold and even though I've a large lump of black angus beef and a few spare ribs on my plate, I decide I want half a rotisserie chicken now and maybe a few scoops of bourbon street chicken to help it slide down. I hardly have to move from my chair to get to it. New plate please.

Fully stuffed and with no room for even a single b&w image of an African village to mentally slow me down, I waddle to the dessert section where I dismiss the tiny plates available and grab a much larger dinner plate so that I can sample several of the nummy cakes, cookies, gateaux and ice creams on offer. I take a huge slice of a coconut banana carrot strawberry angel cake knowing that it'll take seconds to get past my lips and months to get off my hips - as they say. Possibly never to get out of my arteries.

Images of Africa are replaced by the wagging finger of my cardiologist. Yeah well where was that finger when I was deciding where to eat ? Why wasn't it pointing at a Subway or a Panera Bread ? Not much use to me now, pal.

And so I vow never to go there again. Never, never, never. Too much food. Too little willpower. And as for guilt. I've never known such guilt since Father Murphy gave me 10 Hail Mary's as my penance and I only said 8. I should've gone back in and confessed to that but I felt the pattern might have kept me there for some time. I didn't think my 'sin' warranted 10 Hail Mary's anyway as if Father Murphy had wanted his Playgirl magazine left alone, he shouldn't have left it on the altar.

So the Golden Corral. Good Thing or Bad Thing ?

Wellllll. I donno. At $9.69 (senior special including unlimited free drinks) you can eat till your eyes pop out. Much of the food is of a reasonable standard and a lot more is pretty tasteless pap.
Some is very good indeed.

But the very concept of an all-you-can-eat buffet is always hard to justify.

We're back to the luxury and necessity business again. Do we really NEED such a bewildering choice of food items ? Another point would be to say you can just pick a few fav items and have just one plate and leave. But come on, people. It's a buffet for goodness sake.

I guess I'm on the fence with this one. The chain must make a profit or it wouldn't do it. The customers must like it or they'd not go in such numbers.

Is it hard to justify ? Yes. Should we all feel bad going there ? Probably. Is there a terrible waste of food ? Certainly.

But if you go into a posh restaurant in London, Paris or New York and pay $500 for a truffle and a glass of plonk, should you feel any more or less 'guilty' about that when people are literally dying for want of food ?

So maybe it comes down to the waste. In the posh restaurant where, one supposes, all the food gets eaten, then the only issue is spending so much money for that food.

At the Golden Corral I'd have to think that almost as much food gets thrown away as eaten and it's very cheap so waste is the only issue there.

In terms of the posh restaurant, if you have the money, why not spend it however you want ? In terms of the buffet, if lots of food is available why not put it all out for people to eat. Not doing either wouldn't mean things would be any better in Africa. Maybe it should work that way, but it doesn't.

I guess having a GPS isn't a necessity at all. Maybe wanting to live in a time when a Golden Corral is common in Africa would be a much better idea.

The waste would be the same I'm sure but at least eating there wouldn't come with a huge side order of guilt.


Anonymous said...

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh my - I know you LOVE those all you can eat places!!! I'm happy with -- free refills on drinks. But - I usually do not like all you can eat places. The food - is not so good - tastes processed????

Just me - I know - but????

Daphne said...

I hate the waste of money in the posh places and, like you, I'd hate the waste of food in the buffet places (never been to one of course - No Buffets in Blighty).
Terrific post, though.
Off to Sainsbury's now - I'll pass on your best to Smelly Aisle.

HiRize said...

Growing up in our house, it was "Join the clean plate club", a phrase I'm sure is familiar to many of my peers. It was used to encourage one to finish whatever had been heaped onto his plate. If that didn't work, it was, "Eat your dinner. People are starving in China." (China later became India, then Africa.) Well, people all over the world starved anyway and I got fat. To this day, still can't bear to see that food go to waste - instead, it goes to waist.

Anonymous said...

Wow, made me hungry just reading that!

Lots of people have demons with food I think. It's not even just the over-eaters, also the under-eaters. The whole mental relationship we have with food / diet / health / body image is horribly complex it seems. I bet in the 50s during rationing we'd have had less to complain about that now :P

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