I knew I had failed both her and my Pap when she had no idea what the Golden Corral was.
A couple months back, when asked where she wanted to eat, the Circus said, “Olive Garden.” What she didn’t realize was that her uncle had already made up his mind that we were heading to the Golden Corral.
When she announced she didn’t know what that was, I knew I had done my Pap a disservice.
I don’t remember my first all you can eat buffet experience. It was most likely at the Western Sizzlin’ – the closest buffet, about a 30 minute drive from our small town.
The All-You-Can-Eat buffets were standard issue in my family. My pap loved to eat and if we were out and about and within a 20 mile radius of a Ryan’s or Western Sizzlin’ (and often, even if we weren’t), you can bet that was where we were headed.
While he would never admit it, I’m sure my Pap’s favorite Thanksgiving meal was when my great aunt went out of town for Thanksgiving one year, relinquishing her Thanksgiving host duties. Pap quickly decided we would all be eating Thanksgiving dinner at the Ryan’s that year.
Not once though in her nearly seven years on this earth, had my child graced the doorway of a Golden Corral, Ryan’s or Western Sizzlin’.
Had my Pap still been alive, she’d have been getting her fill of the endless ice cream before her first birthday.
Let me pause right here and say that I certainly did not intentionally keep her away from the magnificent mecca-like all-you-can-eat buffets. When I thought about it, I realized that I myself had not eaten at one since before my great uncle, my Pap’s brother, had passed. It just wasn’t the same going to one without seeing them come back to the table time and time again grinning, with their heaping plates of food.
So, on to the Golden Corral we went to set things straight.
The Circus had no idea what was going on. She was completely perplexed as to why we had to wait in line to get drinks and pay for our food before we even set down. As we went to find a table, she all the while looked at the endless array of food bars, completely mystified.
She had seen a standard issue salad bar before, but the copious amounts of food before her were leaving her full of questions – and probably a watering mouth.
After finding a table, her dad led her around the food bars explaining how she could choose any of these things to eat and could eat as much of it as she wished.
She came back with a plate full of steak, pizza and macaroni and cheese.
In that moment, two things happened:
- The kid, having just scored three of her most favorite foods in one sitting, became a life long supporter of the all-you-can-eat buffet.
- Somewhere, my pap grinned, giggled, then looked down at me and said, “That took damn long enough.”
And as if her entree hadn’t already sealed the deal, the dessert plate that followed, complete with chocolate covered marshmallows, chocolate covered Rice Krispies, a piece of red velvet cake, and a cookie (for good measure, of course), sure as hell did.
The number of all-you-can-eat buffets seem to be on the decline. There also aren’t as many big bellied southern country men left.
I believe there is a correlation here.
If my daughter has anything to say about it though, the all-you-can-eat buffet will live on indefinitely. When asked where she wanted to eat for her birthday dinner, her immediate response was, “The Golden Corral.”
I suppose I have quite a few All-You-Can-Eat Buffet trips in my future. It will probably take a good many to get back in my Pap’s good graces over this one.
I’m ok with that. I had even forgotten just how glorious that dessert bar was. Where else can you get peach cobbler with ice cream, chocolate covered strawberries and Rice Krispies in one sitting?
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