Sometimes, when I stupidly have an urge to procreate again, I go back and read some of my pregnancy posts on LiveJournal, wherein I am quickly reminded to close them legs up, close ’em up tight, ya’ll.
Today, I had a fleeting desire to try and birth a creature that might actually enjoy to cuddle with its mother, unlike Chooch who might as well just start pulling a switchblade out of his underroos and rolling cigarettes in his shirt sleeve. So to LiveJournal I went, and I found this lovely memory of Ponderosa and realized that hey, I still haven’t been to a buffet since then. This grudge thing, it comes easy to me.
Originally written January 13, 2006
It was all Henry’s bright idea, really. While idling around the house, wondering what to do for dinner (I was content extending my breakfast and lunch of gummies into the evening), Henry suggested Ponderosa. I quickly thought back upon my last trip to a buffet and decided that I wasn’t living life to the fullest unless I gave it another go. Besides, my mom used to take me to Ponderosa when I was a wee chitlin’, and if memory served me right, I believe I liked it.
Things immediately got off to a rocky start when we arrived. I stood in front of the large menu hanging on the wall behind the counter, heart rate increasing from the impending pressure cast onto me from the impatient stares of Henry and the cashier. My only option, of course, was the buffet, as everything else was steak, steak, seafood with a steak smoothie, or super steak. That’s gross for a vegetarian.
We walked over to the secluded booth I chose and it was here when I became arrested by what I affectionately call Fish Out of Water Syndrome. I stood there, next to the table, with one knee on the slippery booth, looking to Papa H for guidance. Do we sit down first? Do we stand here and wait for a signal, a green light or the peal of a dinner bell? Maybe we should just leave; I really wanted to just leave.
“What do we do now?” I whispered. I could feel the anxiety branching its russet fingers across my face, panic wavering from my flesh like heat on the horizon.
“Uh, we go up and get a plate,” Henry chided in the tone he reserves for moments he feels I should be reminded of my fucking retardedness, after which he stood there and stared at me for a second longer, then shook his head and walked away. I quickly ran after him, grasping onto the elbow of his shirt with my sweaty fingers.
I hung back awkwardly, observing Henry’s professional buffet maneuvering. Following his lead, I grabbed a plate, making certain it didn’t come complete with a hair like his selection did, and then I began to tentatively prong clumps of withered lettuce into a small mound on my plate. The lack of fresh spinach among the salad spread had me so bereft that I had to mentally talk myself down from tear-shed. Hormones are a bitch, but to be fair I probably would have stamped my foot even without-child. Two steps down, an employee was coveting the green pepper slices, thereby monopolizing the container from all the paying customers such as myself who really had their hearts set on the addition of the crisp, snappy vegetable to their salad. The peppers were already overflowing! There was no need for restocking at that particular moment, but then I remembered that to me, buffets are merely an extension of a waking nightmare, so I tried to stop having standards and began to expect typical salad fare to lie in festering clumps, marinating in general buffet splooge and skin flakes from the arms of overreaching salad fixers.
Sans peppers, I moved on to the dressings, which I was delighted to find were not labeled. I blindly added a small dribble to the center of my spinach- and pepper-less crap hill, and shuffled back to our booth with my head down. (I shuffle while pregnant.)
As I pushed the questionable bits of salad around on my plate, I took the time to scope out what nonpareils Henry had acquired. This resulted in an interrogation of how he managed to escape my side long enough to seek out an array of slightly-edible choices. Items such as a golden roll and mac n’ cheese garnished the edges of his plate; things that maybe I would have enjoyed as well.
“If you would have continued along, you would have run right into it,” he explained while tearing chicken off the bone like a caveman, as I whimpered with jealousy.
It’s true, I could have taken more time to explore the depths of the buffet, but not while some old man was breathing down my back, waiting for the right moment to swoop down under the sneeze shield. He was right up against me, tongue wagging and elbows primed and jutted, waiting for the opportunity to start jabbing. I imagined him coating me in the remnants of his impending whirling dervish, and to be honest, I wasn’t trying to stick around for that. Buffets make me feel so rushed as it is, but throw a buffet bully into the mix and watch me freak out like the amazing social abortion that we all know I can be.
After I explained this scene to Henry, while trying to be brave and stifle my tears, he promised to take me back once I picked my way through the salad. Henry’s plate of thoroughly gnashed goods had long since been whisked away by the nicotine-damaged waitress, and still the minutes ticked on. He sat hunched over the table, watching me with his glazed-over eyes as I tediously cut too-large florets of broccoli into bite-sized morsels with his knife.
(My knife was adhered to the napkin it was rolled in, courtesy of an unknown viscous substance, so I wasn’t really anticipating using it on food that would eventually wind up in my mouth.)
By the time I had devoured all parts of the salad that appeared to be health code compliant, there were too many people in line at the buffet, so I made Henry wait some more. It was during this interim that I really got a good look at my fellow diners. Interspersed with folk of Henry’s ilk, and a handful of citizens who looked like they could self-suffice for a few weeks without sustenance, sat:
- (1) man who arrived with his belt already unbuckled;
- a troika of children who had thrown their jackets onto the floor upon arrival and then proceeded to lay on them;
- a group of guys who clearly had just gotten high out in the parking lot
I also finally got to put a face on the noisy nose-blower behind me. And boy I wish I hadn’t, because for that moment in time, I feared that I had somehow wound up in Appalachia.
On my second round of facing the ominous buffet, Henry walked me through and pointed out things that maybe I would enjoy, like cottage cheese, potato salad and macaroni and cheese; it was like having my own guided tour and I felt the need to ask when we were going to see the basement. Little dollops of everything Henry recommended dotted the perimeter of my plate, which I then crowned with a hesitant spoonful of buttered noodles (they looked like worms swimming in snot, you guys) and chocolate pudding (it looked like soft serve poop with a diarrhea skin, you guys). Henry brought me back a smaller plate featuring a diminutive lump of mashed potatoes (which I took one taste of and gagged back up for added effect), nachos and cheese, and a slice of pizza.
I’m really glad that he had the foresight to include the nachos because otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to deduce that the cheese sauce festering away in that vat on the buffet was the same exact coagulated concoction used to coat the macaroni. It was disgusting, and it made my face crumple up like an air-filled paper bag being crushed.
I may have struck out with everything on my plates, but I still had the pizza to count on. The cheese was so thick and heavy, congealed with a luminous sheen of grease not unlike a pool of oil in a parking lot or the complexion of an amputee after performing a one-legged fornication obstacle course on the most humid day of the summer while chugging mugs of habanera chili, that I had to use a fork to pry the slice off the plate. Mistaking that I was in a real restaurant, with a real slice of pizza in my paws, I dove right in. And what a shock to the taste buds (whom I have promised to make it up to, by the way) as they drowned in a wad of artery-plugging mush. I managed to lumber through half before the thick tomato paste became too much to bear. And the crust was like no other: A strange hybrid of what one might assume was soggy Ritz crackers crumbled and rolled out with Nilla Wafers on a tray spritzed with Grandma’s Aquanet to form a sad semblance of pizza dough. I was intrigued. Nauseated, yes; but intrigued nonetheless.
Hope blossomed around the ingested sludge in my stomach when Henry suggested that maybe the desserts would be better. He brought back a smörgåsbord of pint-sized confections: A small bowl, which bore a striking resemblance to an ashtray, housed a small portion each of sugar-plated bread pudding and a crumbled mass of what I believe had “apple” in the name. Next to the bowl, he set down a plate which carried a slice of some curious variety of sweet bread and a brownie.
The crap in the bowl was decent, but the brownie was no more than a glorified piece of school cafeteria cake with an APB out on the icing. And the bread! Good Lord, the bread. Having the inferior taste buds that are programmed into your average blue-collar worker, Henry masticated his bite of bread as though it were a caviar-capped truffle, but I droned on and on about how dry it was — I even conducted an experiment using a small sample of bread, a sip of water, and an extended tongue — and oh yeah, what exactly was I eating, anyway? He insisted it was nothing more than nut bread, but halfway through the shared slice, I bit into a mushy mouthful of banana.
“It’s banana bread!” I announced as I pulled the plate away from Henry and happily ate the rest.
“So because you now know it’s banana bread, it’s suddenly good?” A veritable pylon of steam chugged from his ears as Henry wrestled with this concept. I love confusing him with my nonsensical food laws.
Unfortunately, one slice of banana bread is not enough to change my prior conception of the buffet, so from this day forward, the word will be completely obliterated from my vocabulary. Buffets no longer exist in my universe.
The lesson learned is that evidently, my boobs aren’t the only thing that have gone and changed on me since I’ve entered adulthood; my taste buds are no longer the same under-developed specks upon my tongue as I once knew them to be. Which explains why Chuck E. Cheese pizza isn’t exactly a delicacy worth writing home about these days, either.
What bothers me the most is that I still don’t know what dressing I had covering my wilted salad.