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    Buffet tips

      Where's my snack thread? Anyway, folks have been asking me for buffet-eating tips.

      Saturday night I went to the Lucky Hung Fat Dong Buffet, and as I squeezed into the
      door, I saw the terror in the owner's eyes. A waitress tried to seat me at the
      far end of the room, but (tip #1) I plopped myself down at a table hard by the buffet.
      Once the waitress discovered I wasn't following her, she backtracked and asked be if
      I wanted a drink -- (tip #2) watch out for expensive add ons, because this is how
      they pad the bill. That being said, Chinese food without a Pepsi is, well,
      un-American. I ordered a diet Pepsi because I have my girlish figure to consider --
      I'm only half joking because I do have boobies. Tip #3: give every trip to the buffet
      a theme. My first trip was "Meat on Sticks": chicken, shrimp, pork, beef and "seefood" (sic).
      Tip #4: stacking. I layed the sticks done first in one direction and the next layer at right
      angles. Eventually I had a tower that looked like that game where you take turns removing
      wooden slats. Now you may say that loading down your plate is unnessary when you can
      always make another trip, but where is the challenge in that? Looking down on 5,000
      calories on a single plate is what I'm talking about. Back at my table I noticed that
      a large family was sitting across from me, with more kids than I could count and they
      were all staring bug-eyed at me. On my next trip I decide to (tip #5) have fun with
      my food. I grabbed two pairs of frogs' legs (the legs were still joined at the hip) and
      some chicken balls. Back at my table, I cleared the center and started playing soccer
      with the frogs' legs and the chicken ball, its cherry-red source giving the game a
      ghoulish Halloween air. The waitress, with a dark look about her, asked me if everything
      was alright. I held a deep-fried onion ring out on my pinky and calmy asked for chop
      sticks, because my frogs wanted to play Ringette.

      There's no food that doesn't taste better if you batter and deep fry it, and any good
      Chinese buffet will devote a aisle to this philosophy. I wanted to anchor all that
      with a bed of noodles, but there were four different noodles on offer. (Yes, one
      was Singapore noodles and many diners avoid any Chinese dish where they use curry powder,
      but Big Daddy is catholic in his tastes.) How could I do justice to four noodle dishes?
      Making them share the same plate was an insult to both them and me, and you know how I
      feel about extra trips to the buffet. This is when I spotted an unattended trolley:
      tip #6, be ready to improvise. Commandeering the trolley, I quickly served up four plates
      of noodles and then topped them off with a careful and complete trip down the battered
      and fried aisle.

      Later, I was chowing down on the spoils of a seafood trip, and a rubbery mussel went
      the wrong pipe. I'm sure I turned red, and as I spun around I saw this particular look on
      the faces of the diners around me, like they and I were all thinking the same thing,
      you know, that scene from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. But I Heimliched myself
      against the back on my chair, and the mussel sailed across the room and plopped into a
      fish tank. Regaining my breath, I went back for more mussels. I don't know if this counts
      as a tip, buy my daddy always told me to get right back om that horse.

      I'll spare you a blow-by-blow of all my many trips, since I was there for five hours,
      but let us fast-forward to my desert trips. Most Chinese buffets will put out expected
      and unexpected deserts: almond dofu (hey, that's even how it's spelled) and at my
      buffet that night, baklava and profiteroles. In general, I suggest avoiding baklava unless
      you know the granny that made it and she's still alive. This is because baklava has
      an unlimited shelf life -- when it dries out, they just pure more syrup over it. But
      I wanted it for its architectural possibilities. (Tip #6 again!) I grabbed a large, hot,
      plate, straight from the dish washer, and built a wall of baklava, three layers high,
      around the edge of the plate. The honey syrup melted then solidified. Then I alternated
      layers of ice cream and profiteroles until I had created a class bombé shape. If only I
      had access to egg whites and an acetylene torch!

      The only reason I left before closing time is that I had a powerful urge to get drunk,
      and I wasn't going to do it at their prices. I left my money on the table and as I was
      walked out I spotted this real fatty at a table across the room. I mean, in comparison
      I'm pleasantly zoftig. I had to see how he worked his plates -- professional trencherman
      interest -- and by the decent state of his table cloth I thought he must be on his first plate.
      It was a modest tossed salad?! I couldn't believe it. I don't think I need to turn "avoid the
      salad aisle" into a tip, since it is so obvious, but what was going on here? Then it came to me:
      I was in the presence of a genius, and he was merely playing mind games with staff.
      But I had to go.

      My normal waking state is hung over, but the next morning I woke up in my backyard, covered
      with elm and maple leaves. At least, that is what I thought at first, from the rustling.
      Then I realized I was covered in candy wrappers. I had eaten all the treats I had bought
      for Halloweeners. Not again! There was a foul taste in my mouth (what had I been thinking,
      mixing peppermint Schnapps and yellow Chartreuse) and my upper and lower eyelashes were
      so gummed together I had to pull them apart to see. I'll spare you the details of Sunday,
      or at most post just the facts another time, as they appeared on the police blotter, but I'm
      not proud of the fact that I went trick-or-treating in a toga, and had that wardrobe malfunction...
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