Friday, April 24, 2009

The Battle of the Trough

I have long held to the belief that Americans (and I specify only because I don’t know if it carries over into other nationalities not because I feel others may be immune) only consider two traits in whether or not the food is good when they go out to eat: is there more than enough to feed one person on their plate and is it hot—temperature not spice.

Gluttony has long made up for quality.  Mediocre anything is somehow better if you can gorge yourself.  If the food you serve is terrible and serving size is smallish no one will like you or your restaurant.  Temperature I think only confuses people.  If there is steam billowing off of it in quantity enough to fog up ones glasses they can be distracted by the heat and not even notice the poor quality of whatever they are eating.  

Steak: warm at best but served by the pound and further obscured by some manner of sauce or “gravy” sums up my argument perfectly.  Soup: it’s all kinds of hot and people get more caught up in the somewhat odd eating/drinking rituals concerning soup to ever really comment on quality.

“Is the soup good?”

“Oh yeah,” you saying while dunking your spoon in for a small taste only to pause and blow on it.  “It’s so hot.”

It almost sounds like a compliment to the chef.  

I was recently treated to a buffet this past Easter.

A buffet is the culinary equivalent to an all-in-one office machine, the “Jack-of-all-Trades” and master of none.  Want some over cooked vegetables and too-salty ham, soaking in God knows what kinda juice/water for God only knows how long?  Good, glad you’re interested because we’ve got a lot of it.  

The quality of your buffet is going to be on par with the restaurant.  A five star establishment’s Easter buffet is probably gonna be a cut above Shoney’s daily affair.  Where else will you be given a chance to see people in their Sunday finery push, shove, and stop short of elbows to be the first to get some of the fried shrimp.  

Perhaps the most amusing potential conflict came about when the Great Strawberry shortage hit and people were left wondering if they could just stick their straws in the fondue pot.  I actually watched a woman skewer the last 6 of said strawberries and dunk them in chocolate and then stuff her cheeks; six times in a row.  To the victor go the spoils (and possibly some late evening Muddbutt.Tm)  

What bothered me the most was the fact that considering the location, dress of employees and standard menu, every other day this particular restaurant is open I’d bet they have great food: proper quantity, temperature and attention to preparation.  I should like to go back and try it some day but I’m afraid of see the defeated and victorious from the Sunday buffet sitting around too stuffed to move and eagerly awaiting the next mention of all you can eat cocktail shrimp.

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