Recently at a conference, waiting patiently in line with plate in hand, it occurred to me that the buffet is a most undemocratic way of serving a meal.
I mean, if you think about it, this is a serving style that must have been created by a totalitarian mind. Picture the scene; a despotic maniac is hanging about in his palace/lair/hideout/hole in the ground (depending what stage of his rule we are in) and he has just finished dealing with one of his underlings. His attention turns to matters of national importance, lunch. This dictator decides he needs to devise a way to starve the weakest members of his corrupt society and thus he devises “The Buffet” – “Mwa ha ha ha,” (evil laughter). It is ingenious and perfectly fits his style of governing; it really is survival of the fattest (sorry fittest) at work at its most basic principle.
Let me explain; you really need to move fast to get an equal portion in the Buffet game. It is an art to know when to move to the queue – move too soon and look like a greedy pig, too slow and you really are the outcast of society and you will be left with half fingered spring rolls and egg sandwiches. The strongest amongst us don’t care of course, they are already queued up before the party has even started with their specially re-enforced plates.
Only the fastest, strongest (not necessarily slimmest) and most adaptable will thrive in this game and of course, like all good totalitarian regimes, the cards (or vol au vents) are stacked in the favour of the Carnivore (who in this analogy can be the ruling dictatorial regime of your choice). For if you are the mighty carnivore you are already at a distinct advantage; you can eat everything and anything and probably have the constitution to survive the sometimes questionable hygiene practices of those who prepared the Buffet (probably underpaid but obedient regime underlings).
If however you have special dietary needs or are a vegetarian it is a whole different game. You get to play what I call Vegetarian Russian Roulette; oh the gun is fully loaded my friends, with chicken mayonnaise wraps and sausage rolls! Whether one of the “mystery dishes” that you put in your mouth is vegetarian or not is anyone’s guess. The Carnivore does not need to wash his hands before a meal or even after going to the toilet for he has an iron fisted constitution that can smash all those who object and will not tow the party line; they can handle peanuts at will and place them back in the bowl for some poor unsuspecting person with a less strongly constituted bowel to consume.
Beware my friends the buffet, the most undemocratic way to serve a meal; only the strongest will survive. I have no tips for you, it is just the law of nature – so be careful out there and my only suggestions are: get in the queue early no matter what polite convention dictates and if you’re not sure what it is, then don’t eat it….
©John de Gruyther 2012 (the words and pictures are all my own, the tofu is from the shop)