The world is turning into a buffet. And I am not happy about it.
One of my favorite places to have lunch used to be a vegetarian restaurant called “Hermitage” in Stockholm. I liked the place mostly because they had four or five fixed dishes every day, and once you had picked one out it was delivered to you on a plate, as a finely constructed meal. No deciding, or opening little metal boxes, or waiting in line for a salad spoon – you simply asked, and you got, and it tasted nice. Lovely.
But this place closed down and then reopened and I went along last week to discover that the new owners had turned it into a buffet. And now I vow never to go there again.
You see, I am not a chef. I really don’t know how to finely balance a meal to make it tasty, interesting and attractive. When I go out to eat, here’s what I want – the minimum of choice and the assumption that the people who work in the restaurant know more about putting food together than I do. In fact, I am paying them to take care of that part for me, and to surprise me with their skill.
Buffets are awful. The queuing up, the open trays over which strangers are breathing, the assumption that more is better. I hate it all, especially since it is basically a way for the restaurant to cut down on their serving costs by making the customers do all the work for them.
And the end result of any buffet is what I refer to as “buffet gravy” – that dark, sour, sweet, smooth and chunky goop that results from mixing together far too many things that should probably never be mixed together.
Also buffets tend to benefit the kind of people who like to eat more than they should, who think it’s in some way exciting to get up after a hearty meal and then pour even more food on their plates just because they can. In fact this buffet mania reflects other aspects of modern life that I hate: the assumption that everything exists in abundance, and the assumption that the more choice we have, the better.
Now I agree that basic choices are important for a modern civilisation. But seriously, I don’t give a flying fuck in which of 15 almost identical funds my pension money is invested, or who delivers my electricity, or which mobile phone company I have, or who supplies my broadband. I am sick of choosing every tiny, insignificant thing in life and treating micro-issues as if they really matter. The little money I save from this constant choice just isn’t worth it.
So there will be no more trips to Hermitage for me. And if people want to keep me as a friend I suggest that they never invite me to an establishment with the phrases “Eat all you can”, “Buffet”, “Self Service” or “Crazy” over the door. Cos I just ain’t goin’.