Monday, July 3, 2006

All You Can Eat

My parents are from the East Coast, attend church regularly, routinely quote funny commercials and do not drink. My husband's parent's are originally from England, attend church for funerals, mute the television during commercials and usually stock up on Trader Joe's wine when they come here to visit. Of the things they do have in common, both my husband and I were surprised to find one particular thing at the top of the list.

They all love smorgasbords.

If you've never been to an Old Country Buffet or Golden Corral, let me explain the smorgasbord concept as interpreted by these two chains. First, you establish relationships with all the high fat, high cholesterol, bland-tasting, instant potato food vendors within a one hundred mile radius. Then you hire a bunch of people with a tendency to perspire in warm environments and arm them with netted hats. Then you post a ridiculously low amount for an unlimited amount of high fat, high cholesterol, bland-tasting, instant potato food and turn on the lights. And our parents will come.

When we arranged the first meeting between our parents, we were both silently hoping the other set of parents would suggest something comparitively high class, like Applebees. It was primarily my fault that we ended up at the Golden Corral. In an attempt to display self deprecating humor, I lightly mentioned that my parents LOVED Golden Corral. I expected to share a giggle and move on. Instead, my in-laws lit up. I think it was in that instant that they first approved of our marriage. I skulked to the phone and informed my parents of the dinner location.

The Golden Corral looks like a mandatory pit stop for Greyhound bus passengers. Every strange person in the area flocks to it, and brings their kids. I stood in line trying not to touch anyone, and finally got to the part where we could load our plates up with food.

I'll spare you the details of the "food" available, except to ponder why on earth anyone thinks that a sane person would actually want seconds or thirds of it. I tried to squelch the urge to run as I dripped "mashed potatoes" onto my plate.

Needless to say, the food wasn't very good. Our parents exchanged notes about how this wasn't one of the "better ones". My husband and I exchanged glances, both wondering what alternate universe our parents visited that actually had better ones.

I personally think I encouraged my parents when I was younger. We went to smorgasbords all the time, and I liked them back then. As a ten year old, a restaurant which allowed you to put red jello on top of white rice was a Zagat worthy establishment. But then I grew out of my smorgasbord stage, and my parents did not. I have spent more Mother's and Father's Days fighting seven year olds for the fried chicken tongs than I care to remember.

During their recent visit, we took my inlaws to the Home Depot (because we are such inventive, carefree, fun hosts). As we pulled into the parking lot, they spotted an Old Country Buffet. More excitement. But we'd already had dinner.... damn. What bad luck. And they were leaving the day after. Dang.

Now I just have to hope that they close down the Old Country Buffet before they come back, and avoid taking my own parents anywhere near it. I do not think, at this stage in my life, I can survive another smorgasbord meal. I mean, I work hard. Don't I deserve real potatoes? A meal without gelatin? Waitstaff without hairnets?

I don't ask for much. Maybe I can convince them all to develop a love for Applebees after all.

1 comment:

laura said...

You are welcome to the Waldorf Old Country Buffet anytime ... it's right down the street from us! ;-)