buffet our way

Given a choice between sitting down and ordering a meal in a restaurant and making his way through a buffet, Grandpa says he gets his money’s worth at a buffet. So, when the grandkids said, “We want to go to the buffet for supper,” Grandpa happily headed for the car.
I think the grands like the wealth of choices: Hamburgers, tacos, steak, slabs of ham, wedges of pizza, chicken: fried, baked, or grilled. The kids looked at all of that and went straight for the macaroni and cheese.
What is it with kids and mac and cheese? The week we visited half a dozen restaurants with a variety of grandchildren, most under 10 chose mac and cheese. I asked to try a bit at each restaurant. Each restaurant’s dish of mac and cheese failed horribly against the flavorful casserole version my mom taught me to make. Kids have no clue how good it can taste. Still buffets offer foods kids will eat – including the ubiquitous mac and cheese.
The kindergartener arrived with a big slab of ham, “My dad is going to help me eat it.” She ate two bites. Her dad presented her with a big fluffy roll, “Do you want this?”
“Oh yeah. I like butter rolls,” she said and ate two bites, flattened it and ignored it.
She said, I want cheese pizza.” She took a slice and did not eat two bites, insisting, “I don’t like pizza.”
The others tried pot roast, fried chicken sticks, hush puppies and beans. The adults each began with a healthy choice of green salads with very little dressing. Boring adults evidently had a good influence on the kids. Their second or third helpings included steamed carrots or green beans. For her second plate the 10 year-old returned with seven Brussel sprouts “You really like those?” I asked.
“Yep!” she said stuffing a sprout into her mouth. “Oww, It’s hot!” She gasped and gulped water before finishing all the sprouts.
By the time the kids headed for the dessert bar, the adults returned with entrees of steak, chicken, ham or fish with potatoes or rice.
Kids like the buffet’s food flexibility. The grandchildren built confections of Slushees with scoops of ice cream. I sampled at two bites and declared, “I don’t like it.”
The kids grinned and exaggerated big mouthfuls where I could see them eat theirs. I didn’t even bother sampling their next concoction of ice cream with gummies. They laughed at my face when they showed it to me. The kindergartener wanted the same. She settled on one small ice cream cone – which she did not finish.
Slowly used plates, napkins and thin plastic gloves piled up around us. Forget the anti-plastic slogans of “Save the Earth.” Since Covid, every buffet guest must wear disposable thin, oversized gloves at the buffet line. Although some buffets trust guests with real knives, forks, and spoons, many buffets now only offer disposable plastic in individually wrapped napkins.
By the time we finished, Dr. Seuss piles of plates teetered around us. One other time that happened at a buffet expedition with grandkids who competed to see who could stack plates the highest. They served themselves a cookie on one plate or a small serving of potatoes on a larger plate.
This time we lost our silverware in the piles of plates and napkins. The table looked like it held the detritus of a hard night of study, although no books were opened to produce this column. Still, we filled many stomachs and spent no time cooking beforehand or cleaning up afterward – which is ‘why’ I like a buffet any day.