Column: Unquenchable appetites at buffet were quite a sight

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 3, 2002

I was feeling a bit peckish.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

I was feeling a bit peckish. I was a long way from home and had been traveling for many miles without the company of food. My stomach was growling like a grizzly with a toothache. It was either eat or turn up the volume of my car radio in order to drown out the sounds of my stomach.

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I drove by a lot of fast food outlets -&160;none of which had offerings that appealed to me on that particular day. My favorite places to grind – other than at home – are small-town cafes. But this was a time of the week when this flock of fine food establishments is closed. I surveyed my choices as my ravenous stomach rumbled out its pleas. I like restaurants that have two main activities: eating and conversation. I don’t want any blaring TVs or loud music. I like a place where people enjoy talking or reading between bites.

I continued to drive until I found such a place. It was an establishment advertising itself as a buffet. It brought back memories. I remember when we had smorgasbords. McGuire’s Cafe in New Richland once featured an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord for a dollar and a quarter. At a young age, I could easily eat that much in mashed potatoes. Encouraged by such wonderful memories, I decided to stop. A smiling clerk accepted my money (more than $1.25) and directed me toward the food, plates, silverware and tables. I found a table to my liking, located by a window that would aid my daydreaming as I digested the comestibles. I walked to the many offerings for my dining pleasure. I grabbed a plate and joined the herd of folks in hot pursuit of their culinary prey.

I wasn’t quite prepared for the abundance of food and people at the buffet. I had always been told that we do not all feed at the same trough. That may not be true. The food items were what you would expect to find at a convention for cholesterol and cavity lovers. I spent some time trying to figure out which critter had been fried in each of the highlighted mystery meat compartments. I filled my plate with salad-type goodies. It was a good start. I figured to make at least one more visit to the buffet of excess. I grabbed a glass of ice tea and headed for my table.

I had a book, a window and sustenance. What could be better? I sat down and began to eat. Then I heard honking like there was a flight of geese at the next table. It was winter in Minnesota. That means that wherever three people meet, two of them will be suffering from colds. Those two will make every effort to make sure that the third enjoys the company of their misery. The honking continued as I tried not to think of geese. I tried, but I couldn’t help but think of a gaggle of geese. It was like listening to the William Tell Overture and trying not to think of the Lone Ranger. Oh, the one person out of the three who is not suffering from a cold will be talking on a cell phone.

I watched a man walk by carrying an incredible number of plates, each heaped with food. I figured he was a survivalist and was stocking up on a year’s supply of food. There were a lot of Olympic class eaters in that place. Many were making their weekly visit to stock up on body fat. A lot of folks were wearing clothes much too large for them, but as I watched them feed their faces, I could see that they were rapidly growing into their loose clothing. I hadn’t seen so much elastic since Hartland’s Early Morning Aerobics Class celebrated its 100th hamstring pull. Apparently this place was where all the folks on &uot;America’s Most Wanted&uot; chow down. They relished using a knife to cut up their meat a little too much. Not even one Palm Pilot made an appearance. If one had, it would have been devoured. I watched one large man throw his back out trying to button his pants after 17 trips to the food dispensing area. The restrooms actually had revolving doors. I heard one chowhound remark, &uot;This place will be in my heaven.&uot; Another wished that I would live 10,000 years and grow to enormous size after I picked up her dropped fork.

I left after finishing my salad and my tea. I was afraid that if I stayed I would develop an edible complex.

Hartland resident Al Batt writes columns for the Wednesday and Sunday editions of the Tribune.