On Saturday my family celebrated Matthew’s one month old birthday. My cousin Thuy and his wife Jane held a baby shower so that friends and family could meet the little dude with the funniest face. He looks like a puppy. A human puppy. Very cute!
Because there was so many of us, at least 90 people, it only made sense to have this event at an Asian buffet in Richmond Hill aka the 905. This is where buffets reign supreme. I will say it’s a bit daunting and dazzling if you take a moment to ponder the number of different species you can eat at a buffet. It is a game I play. My count was at least 18 different animals that night. My usual thoughts and considerations about sustainable and local eating were forced to be on hold.
I avoid buffets now, but going to one was a lot fun and very nostalgic.
When I was young, when we were not frequenting Chinese or Vietnamese restaurants, my extended family on my father’s side occasionally went to buffets. Sit down dinners of mostly the Western variety was not an experience I had much of. Try getting 12 aunts and uncles, plus their spouses and significant others, 20 first cousins, plus their spouses and significant others, to the table.
You see, my father’s family, eats an enormous amount of food. I am talking vats of noodles and soup. I do not think I have seen a man or woman eat as much as some of my uncles. Going to buffets allowed everyone to be full and content, for a set price, as going to a normal restaurant was a bit of a risk - of not satisfying people’s appetite, of having to spend more than one could afford, of not being able to provide and losing face.
It was a treat to go. My mother would regale over the idea of eating “all-you-can-eat” seafood. Now, not all buffets are created equal, so part of what made a good buffet (oxymoron for some I am sure) was what seafood they had as offerings. Another determinant, and a counterbalance to the quality of the food, was the price. Going for lunch or dinner made a difference.
I remember this one time, when I was about 10 going with my cousins and our parents. I was the eldest and thought it would be fun to eat whatever made up concoction my cousins and brother offered. I was brave and wanted to show off - that I had a steely stomach and could eat whatever. So with eyes closed Anh Thi put a spoonful of something in my mouth.
And I choked. I still remember the taste in my mouth. Imagine a mixture of hot sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, noodles, rice, some meat, strawberry ice cream, and what tasted like peanut butter - whatever it was it was velvety, hard, chewy and liquid all at the same time. It tasted like spicy hot vomit.
Generally at a buffet, I’d eat myself so full, I was uncomfortable. There were many moments where after eating, I’d clutch my stomach in absolute agony. Having eaten myself physically sick. I remember one time, having to excuse myself so I could go lie down in the backseat of the family car, feeling as though I’d been punched repeatedly in the stomach by Mike Tyson, feeling that I just might die of gluttonous blows. Feeling like my stomach would burst and my dead body would be found, guts exploded all over the backseat.