I got my first buffet experience when I was twelve. It was mildly embarrassing, but served serious lessons on humanity and social skills.
My father took us for a Chrismas Day treat at a fancy restaurant along Banda Street. It was a kid’s affair – my five cousins and I.
My cousins thought it would be fun. I knew my father well enough, but I kept mum.
The restaurant was decked out in colored lights, a gigantic Christmas tree with a flashing replica of the Star of David at the peak. It was not faux cedar. I still recall it’s aromatic smell to this day.
We waltz in. Father is up ahead, with us in a single file behind him. Think of mother duck and her ducklings. He raises his hand – the STOP signal.
He turns – and, beckons us closer. Like a soccer coach’s last minute prep talk to his players before a crucial match.
In a conspiratorial half-whisper, father says:
“Hey, kids – we don’t eat chicken in restaurants. Your mums are cooking at home. Ok? Pick what I pick, and nothing more.”
Turns out that the restaurant had a special All-You-Can-Eat buffet offer for Christmas Day. For a standard price, a guest could eat all they could.
Already, there was a line at the buffet table – open dishes with silver tongs. We joined the line, father up ahead.
Except, it seemed that father didn’t have his usual appetite. At the start of line, he picked a slice of watermelon, and pineapple. A single scoop of Pilau, skipped the bowl half-filled with diced Chapati – dipped for a single scoop of meat stew.
Father made sure we skipped the Chapati.
The line was not moving. Father wheeled us around the bottleneck, a couple of adults – visibly agitated to the end of the line. Some seriously spicy Kachumbari.
We found an empty table. We were disappointed. Who skips Chapati? At that moment, father scored dismally in the popularity ratings.
Father spent a few minutes watching us nibbling at fruit slices. He tapped his plate – signal for LOOK UP – and pointed with his lips at the buffet line.
“Listen up, kids. Do not be that, when you grow up.” Father says.
The buffet line’s bottleneck. A couple of guests were mobbing a few bowls like a pack of seagulls.
The bowls had the best offerings of the buffet: Chicken wings, grilled ribs and pork chops. We watched.
A lady, quite well-dressed with an handbag clutched under an armpit, shouldered away two men to emerge – with an overloaded plate.
She had a plate balanced high with chicken wings, meat stew dripping off the side – and, two grilled ribs in her spare hand.
“Kids, the buffet shall always test your self-discipline. A buffet can easily show a person’s lack of shame or compassion for one another.” Father says.
We soon lost appetite, the more we watched how people behaved on the buffet table. Every so often, we saw somebody grab something from the tray with their hands instead of the tongs.
Or, someone in the line sneezing – no handkerchief.
The Chapati bowl – a dude picked a few pieces, decided they are taking too much space on plate and chucked them back.
Suddenly, father called for the bill. He offered to pay using his Co-op Bank ATM card. He rarely carried cash.
This festive season restaurants, family and corporate events will have a buffet-style food layout. It’s a prudent learning opportunity for the young.
As you go out for meals and trips, have an eye for money-saving tips and offers to save money.
Like father, for instance.
He rarely spent money he didn’t plan for. In end-month shopping trips, he would ask mother to prepare a shopping list, and they’d discuss it against their budget.
And, always – used his Co-op Bank ATM Card to pay.
Father would always insist on eating first in the house before these shopping trips. It’s a trick to avoid spending money on snacks, if we went shopping hungry.
To make the most of this Christmas season, visit the nearest Co-op Bank branch – open an account and receive your ATM card.
It is a Visa Debit card and you can use it for cashless shopping at no extra cost.