Buffet: n. A meal laid out on a table from which guests serve themselves.

This is why dictionaries are useless. They don’t break the surface of the complexity of certain words. Let’s ponder the entire buffet concept, shall we?

First, anything sounding French attracts a certain element. Throw Gallic, Celeste, Hoi Poloi, touche, decolletage, Mademoiselle and menage-a-trois on your product and faux sophisticates will come running.

Second, it involves food. No one is indifferent to food.

Third, there is a subcontext of conviviality, celebration, joyful exuberance in our collective image of the buffet table.

Fourth, we exercise free will in choosing our nourishment, skipping some entrees, selecting others in a fusillade of sweeping, quick, empowering moves.

Now let’s look at the reality based on a comparatively new buffet operation in Hudson which shall go unnamed. Right off, they take your money up front, unlike regular dining facilities where you can refuse to pay if the food or service isn’t up to snuff. Try getting back your $9 at a buffet place. Service? A person looks at your readout from the computer to determine whether you ordered soda. If so, the server brings it. That is your service, except for about half an hour later when they hover, ready to clear your table even as you are still in the process of swallowing your tater tots while your Jell-o remains untouched because volume is the key to buffet profits. Move ’em in, move ’em out.

Now to the ambiance. Think air raid at a Riverdance rehearsal. Think smoke bomb set off at a pogo stick competition. Think head lice on Don King being sprayed from a ‘copter. Think fire drill at a psychiatric facility. Think Melissa Rivers’ wedding. Think a free giveaway at Fortunoff’s. Think thousands of hanging, pregnant, wedgie chads being fingered by desperate volunteers. Think GLUTTONY!

Humans smacking into each other, plates loaded with multi-colored blobs of sustenance conjured by bi-polar, manic-depressive chefs, plopped into metal rectangles by depressed, minimum wage, socialists who speak eight words of English and who, if they could spare the saliva, would spit in the food. Elbowing elderly, infirm, blind and sick because they are taking too much feta cheese or spooning too damn slow. Screaming at your own kids for loading up on desserts, or worse, losing two or three in the madness. Kids so covered with food from 12 different countries, food with the nutritional value of cobwebs that you don’t realize until you have pulled into your street that you’ve got the wrong kid.

Ten different kinds of soup, one ladle, people slurping their vegetable rice right out of the pot because above all else – above decorum, manners, diet, sensibility, health and wellness – the over-riding philosophy at buffets is GET YOUR MONEY’S WORTH. And if possible, stick as much unstickable food into your pockets as you leave, smirking at the “server” you stiffed. Remember, that last piece of strawberry cheesecake has no one’s name on it and anyone with a cane or walker who dares approach it pretty much deserves what they get. – Joe Del Priore


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