Why the Chinese Buffet?

By Kevin Brent

It’s the worst of both worlds, the last in line, the end of the road and the bottom of the barrel. Unrelenting and as addicting as heroin, it obsesses you and rapes the reason and accountability from your very essence.

The recesses of the All-you-can-eat Chinese buffet is a thinly veiled lair of the Devil. He awaits you in every dish, he is the pungent sauce in the cashew chicken and bean curds in the egg rolls. He is the ice in that free Slice refill and the sliver of almond that is baked into your cookie. The Devil knows you cannot stay away and he will own a portion of your soul and you will never have it back. Satan is the buffet. And the buffet is He.

Dramatics aside, you get the point. The greasy, strip mall based, 5.95 all-you-can-hold-down buffet is essentially a palace of both pleasure and pain. For those in the know, it begins innocent enough. Logical, too, on the most base of notions. Think about it – who doesn’t like Chinese food? And who doesn’t relish the opportunity to eat all you can at a reasonable price?

There is no wait. No hassle. Heck, no menus. You can sit wherever the hell you want (trust me, that beaming gentleman cheaply disguised as a host will let you sit shotgun in his own car as long as the bills’ paid) and the only thing you have to worry about is clearing off the sea of used plates to make room for more.

This is where the bliss is still peaking, and you are entirely unaware of the impending decent. And that’s fine because your soul is sold, eternity awaits, and there is nothing left but to enjoy what you’ve bargained for. And that is a beef dish created by an ancient tribe of Mongols, chicken tinged by the aromatic scent of a lemon, wantons deep fried to perfection with a choice of exquisite dipping sauces, soup containing elements of both hot and sour, ending with rectangular molds of lime flavored gelatin on a base of white tofu. And we eat until the hellfire burns within us, raging like the blasphemous rants of the hellion or the piteous groans of the damned.

Basically, you’re ready to vomit powerfully. There are two basic rules of buffet indulgence, with the first being never go over three plates. Never ever ever. We all have done it and all have pained and toiled for hours because of it. It is a rule which must not be broken, a line never to be crossed, a field unto which not a single fertile weed should ever be sown. You eat more than two plates you suffer.

Which brings us to rule #2, heading immediately home upon completion of the meal. Do not return anything at the video store, do not get your car detailed or waxed or even washed. You need to be near a restroom and you will need to be there within fifteen minutes.

This is when your journey will apex. Multiple trips to the head will undoubtedly be required. So will a couch capable of sustaining the length of your horizontal body for up to six hours. A damp cloth. Soothing words from loved ones. All are helpful in this, your darkest hour. Do not scream, cry, yell at the Heavens or curse your own judgment. The choice has been made and now the contents of the buffet course through your body. The only choice to made now is out of your hands: do you live or die? A higher authority assumes the bench.

And of course you live to see another day and promise never to go back. But you will. All of you will, and when the desire has become irrepressible you will again make the journey. The journey between Heaven and Hell. Between right and wrong. Between salvation and damnation. Between the trusty burger place down the street and the All-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet.