Yep, that’s me.
Call it smörgåsbord, smorgasbord, pot luck, or buffet, it’s a great place to learn about food.
I guess I’m normally a cautious person when eating out. If it’s a traditional restaurant, I’m hesitant to pay money for something I don’t recognize. There’s nothing worse than leaving a restaurant dissatisfied because I made an unfortunate choice.
On the other hand, I’m a real fan of the Chinese food buffet. You pick up your plate and walk about looking at the various offerings. Typically, they’re in metal buckets and heated by hot water underneath or heat lamps from above. You can also be strategic about it and look for the people to bring out a new bucket, generally a strong hint that it’s just been cooked and so is still steaming hot.
Depending upon the restaurant, that selection can go from big to very big! Locally, it’s always a special treat to go to the Golden Gate Restaurant or head into Windsor for the Mandarin or May Wah Inn. When my job involved being on the road, I could hop in for a quick lunch and be gone in moments.
For those special nights out around here, there was always a spectacular buffet at Caesars Windsor Casino. It takes a really empty stomach to be able to taste everything. It’s a little more expensive but a nice night out.
One of the Professional Learning events that I was part of for so many years was the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee event held at the Lamplighter Inn in London. It was always held during the first major snow storm to hit London in December but featured an incredible amount of seasonal goodies including the fabulous dessert of bread pudding. It was being allowed to select the dessert that kept me chairing the event for so many years.
Closer to home, there are those special family events. You have the whole family over and everyone brings something. I can remember in particular summer reunions in Komoka or Christmas gatherings in Lobo. I appreciate coming from great cooking families. Add to this, my mother’s spread at Thanksgiving or Christmas and my mother-in-law’s equally as large gatherings. Since both of our parents lived in the same town, we would alternate. Then, there was New Year’s as well.
Great meals abound and it was all easily mixed and matched by the size of your plate and the amount of shaming that you could take limiting the number of trips…. Another common thread is that you’re often shoulder to shoulder with a person who is just one food item away.
Except for the family events, another common design for these things are sneeze guards. Who wants a bowl of hot and sour soup that someone has sneezed over. Mmmm. Hot and sour soup.
For safety, buffets and smorgasbords always want you to get a new plate each time through the line. It’s a clean start to ensure that there’s no spreading of germs and also not to dip your tie into previously gathered gravy.
So, yes, I’m sitting here at the keyboard overthinking great food offerings. Particularly in cases where there are large numbers of people, it’s the only way to efficiently serve people. When was the last time you attended a professional learning event that wasn’t serving food in this way? Given all that we’re currently experiencing, has this come to an end?
Right now, restaurants around here are either delivering or offering pickup service. You can’t order a bit of this and a little of that. Even the local Chinese restaurant has much of what would have been in a buffet available configured as a meal with one or two options. We’re part of the province that is still in Stage 1 so going to sit at a restaurant isn’t an option. We could make it to Tilbury, Wheatley, or Chatham in under an hour but that’s not fair. Those locals should be able to enjoy their bit of freedom. Not everyone is that respectful. Check this out.
Our time for reopening will come. I suspect that the pressure to make it happen will let us have our turn in a week or two, provided people don’t do stupid things. After all, it’s the summer time and it’s nice to be able to get out. Our little community has a history of closing downtown streets for festivals and is planning to close the street to allow restaurants to spread out onto the street for distanced eating.
So things will be different. I think we all know, respect, and expect that it will be. It will be a long time, though, that we’ll have the chance to explore and learn about new foods at a smorgasbord or a buffet. The experience that we had of sharing and picking/choosing will be just a memory. It will be something to add to our long list of things that we can remember from the “good ol’ days”.