Musings from the Old Country (Buffet)

Nora Taylor

If you ever find yourself saying, “I need a break from the Downer atmosphere but don’t want to sacrifice my ability to choose from a wide array of mildly flavored carbohydrates,” then let me do you a favor and point you to the nearest Old Country Buffet. This past Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the Old Country Buffet on Wisconsin Avenue with a few of my closest friends. Our spirits were high, the repartee was unparalleled and the food was bountiful.
The place was filled with jovial families enjoying a Sunday dinner together, and also some haggard old weirdoes. I felt as if I had stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting, if Rockwell painted large people wearing embroidered sweatshirts and families taking part in one of the oldest American traditions, gluttony.
We were greeted by our table side assistant, Zorina, henceforth referred to as “Zorina the Timid.” She mumbled some stuff and walked away, leaving us to enjoy the bevy of poultry dishes, MSG-laden steak and potatoes that look like macaroni and cheese but are most definitely not macaroni and cheese.
One thing that the OCB has up on Downer is the family-friendly atmosphere. Normally I love kids, but much like my relationship with the elderly, my amicability towards them can waver in certain situations. I think the best way to express this is through analogy: Driving quickly is to old people as enjoying myself is to children.
Not that listening to five different conversations from five children under five isn’t riveting. I learned such things as,” I have chocolate pudding Isaac! I have chocolate pudding!” and “Mom I want to get high.” I was trying to hear more of the latter child’s statement when Zorina the Timid mumbled some stuff and took away my plate.
As I went up for my next course, I realized that a lot of people were looking at me. Realizing that I was broadcasting my otherwise unnoticeable difference by wearing my Lawrence sweatshirt, I began to wonder if they could sense that I did not belong. Feeling oddly like Obama in a bowling alley, I began to wonder if my liberal elitism was distancing me from buffet compatriots. Why had I opted for the roast chicken and Waldorf salad over the build your own taco line? Was my abhorrence for Jell-o keeping me from ever truly understanding the subtle nuances of Appleton’s premier chain buffet restaurant? To my knowledge, the Asian Garden Buffet by the mall is a freestanding enterprise. Maybe I should just throw in the towel and go to Sorroco’s. As I watched a child throw up on the carpet I realized that I was overanalyzing everything. Present company excluded, Old Country Buffet patrons aren’t there to judge. They are there to eat, and eat some more, because that is the American way. Don’t believe me? Ask Zorina.