Giant feasts of seemingly endless portions of food is not an American invention by any stretch. Royalty has thrown down in such fashion in every account ever told, from ancient Egypt to King Arthur’s court. Hawaiians have held whole pig roasts at Luaus since long before they were held in the back of the luxury resorts for sunburned Mid-Westerners and Canadians at $45 per person.
The thing that did require American ingenuity, however, is recreating the same festival concept just because it’s lunch time on a Wednesday. The Chinese culture is often blamed for bringing this form of gluttony to America, but if it was them who did it, it’s not real likely that it was something that they brought from their homeland, as much as was created from their customs. Family style dining is how their culture often eats at dinner time, and since a buffet is just a sort of recreation of that custom, it is doubtful that their buffets were initially pandering to America’s big fat fatties, and even more doubtful that they ever thought that we’d embrace the concept at lunch time.
Of course, if you’re one of those “I wonder where the first…” people, it’s far more likely that the thing we now consider a buffet was begun by the casinos when Las Vegas began to really get its legs back in the 1940s. Buffets were, and are, used as a draw to come stay and gamble. Buffets are now so competitive and popular in Las Vegas, that the quality of food that is served at some (like at the Bellagio or the Rio) rival four and five-star restaurants in most of our own home towns.
Probably the beginning of the real beginning of our country’s love affair with the buffet can likely be squarely be placed in 1973, however. That was the year that Golden Corral opened its doors in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Golden Corral is like the Walmart of buffets. Now, there’s nothing really awesome to eat at a Golden Corral. I really prefer several other smaller country-style buffets to their food, but there’s enough to choose from at the mass filling station, that you don’t ever really notice that it’s all mediocre. Lord knows you feel the same no matter which buffet you roll out of.
Even though Golden Corral is not my favorite, though, it was definitely the one that needed to be celebrated on National Buffet Day. One of my favorite things about a buffet like this, is that I can get just one of anything. This way, I can snack while I’m shopping for things to load up on my plate. A fried okra here, a french fry there. Yes, I think I will try one of their onion rings. Of course, the other awesome thing about Golden Corral is its dessert station. Cakes, pies, a chocolate fountain, brownies, they’re all there for the taking! But the thing that really chirps in my tree is the soft serve ice cream machine. These things are from God himself, and I just can’t refuse one. There was one in the buffet on the last cruise I took, and I must have hit that thing three times a day! You know, I have never really wanted to own a keg aerator in my home, but I really may find myself owning one of these things one day! Ice cream buffets… how come there aren’t any of those?
See you Thursday for National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day.