Buffet Mania

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.

Fig 1: A buffet, possibly on a boat, yesterday

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’.

/ paddy

20 thoughts on “Buffet Mania

  1. I loathe buffets too. Too much choice, and too many horrible potential combinations. Plus, I like the idea of my food being brought to me. There’s still novelty in that.

  2. Stuart: Which one? I just nicked them all…

    charlotteotter: Yes, self-service is the same as no service.

    Martin: That’s Buffy, man! Get it..?

  3. Surely you are not adding “all you can eat” buffets to your blanket disgust?

    I know I have been good these last two months and lost a stone but as soon as the other two stone are gone I’m treating myself.

    Chinese, tapas, Mexican. Hell, all three if I can squeeze it in.


    PS – I’d like to buff the vampire slayer.

  4. Amen, brother! “Choice”? Pah! A selection of 20 different species of goo is not my idea of quality of life.

  5. There’s worse. There’s “Mongolian Barbecues” where you don’t choose the dishes – you choose the INGREDIENTS. 8-|

    Very good point about the underlying assumptions about choice and abundance in these places.


  6. James: Indeed I am – eat-all-you-can is a terrible waste of resources. And the whole concept adds to the myth of over-consumption. And anyway, weren’t you downsizing…? :)

    Tor: The more goo, the merrier…

    Aphra: Yuck. The world is going mad.

  7. *sneeze*

    It’s good for your immune system!

    Not to mention all those who want to feel that they can get extra without paying for it… I would guess it’s more that than rampant consumerism.

    Good blogsite, Paddy! You’ve managed to keep it alive for quite a while now. That’s quality!

    aka He Who Analyzes Strange Forces Affecting Little Carts. :)

  8. Rolf: Ah yes, my analyser of dodgy science and scrappy plotting. Nice to hear from you. I’m still fixing that book up – found a lot of obvious things I had missed. Stick around for 10, 15 years and you might even get to see it finished!

  9. 15 years?

    Fer chrissakes, it *is* finished. Get out and catch yourself a publisher. Heinlein would have sent you to /D/u/n/f/a/n/a/g/h/y/ Siberia for that!


  10. Thats it – i´m taking you to this “All you can eat” Thai-buffé on drottninggatan this week – name you day sir.

  11. Rolf: OK, OK, I’ll pick up the pace! But I had to change one important thing, and put the hot-air creatures into use as living balloons. Really, it was obvious.

    Niamh: Grossly gross. And untasty too.

    029: No please!

  12. While I was reading this I heard Dylan Moran’s voice in my head. Have you ever thought of doing stand-up? Irish comedians are the best on the planet, along with Billy Connolly, and the Scots were originally Irish anyway as we all know (and he was Catholic to boot and look at that last name, forget the accent).

  13. OR Melling: Stop, you will give me a big head! You are very kind, but I am much funnier in print than in person. Really. I’m quite boring in the flesh. I just kind of mutter and mumble and talk about nothing. See?

  14. Last week, a friend and I combined two of the things you hate into one lunchtime of hedonistic gluttony – we went for all you can eat pizza at Pizza Hut! We even eschewed the salad option so we could fit in more pizza, (washed down by all-you-can-drink cola). I must be geting old – I used to enjoy doing that sort of thing occasionally, but I swear, I could literally feel my arteries hardening, as my blood sugar and insulin levels went through the roof. Tasted good though! When I do eventually get round to visiting you in Sweden I will be expecting proof of the existence of these cheese-mountain pizzas.

  15. DrDan: And I bet you ate around the crusts, didn’t you? Come on, sure you did. I did one all-you-can-eat pizza buffet in my life, but the hugely fat people sitting there with me put me off that kind of thing for life.

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