The Country Buffet

My 17-year old son is a baseball player. He plays for his high school team (made the all-conference team as a freshman, but I digress) in the spring, and a travel/showcase team in the summer and fall. For reasons that elude me, he still doesn’t have his driver’s license at 17 and 2 months so I’m still the baseball chauffeur/butler. When he was younger, I coached his travel team, which was mostly fun. I got to draw up practice plans, schedule a pitching rotation, and call suicide squeezes. In some respects, I now enjoy being “just” a parent for his baseball career. There’s much less stress, lower time commitment, and I don’t have to bash heads with my son because he loafs to first on a routine grounder. That’s someone else’s job now. On the other hand, some of my new roles as parent of a baseball player are not how I imagined spending my 40s. At one tournament this summer, I made 6 trips to Wal-Mart in one day to buy ice, was up at midnight washing his jersey with shampoo in the sink of my hotel room, and drying it with a hair dryer the next morning. Like I said, baseball butler.

That brings me to today’s activities. In the fall, he plays doubleheaders every Sunday. It’s an all-day commitment. He has to be there 90 minutes before the first game and by the time they’ve played two and had a break in between, a good 6-7 hours has passed since I rolled out of my driveway. I love watching him play so no real complaints (other than having to watch the first 8 weeks of the football season on my Blackberry). The part I do mind is the 90 minutes I have to kill while he’s warming up. It appears that nobody plays baseball in Maryland in the fall so all of his games are against Virginia teams, usually 45 minutes from my house. So, there’s no time to go home during warm-ups. I just have to find a Starbucks or bowling alley to kill the time.

I dropped him off at the field at 10:30 this morning for the noon start of game 1. This was out in Fairfax, Virginia somewhere so I had plenty of options for a quick bite to eat before the twin set. Having gotten up at 6 AM to watch the Ryder Cup (only to find it was rained out), I was plenty hungry. Being the healthy guy I am, I spotted a Subway to grab a turkey sandwich with Jared. Unfortunately, the Subway was next to a joint called the Country Buffet. Uh-oh. I suddenly found that I had eggs and bacon on the brain. So, I ventured into the Country Buffet.

Holy crap! Have you ever been to one of these places? If not, DO NOT GO! You will regret it. I thought about turning around and carrying out Plan A (turkey sandwich on wheat), but, alas, I was weak. The best way I can describe the Country Buffet is a huge warehouse with cheap tables scattered about and buffet spreads as far as the eye can see, each with a more toxic collection of food than the next. When the dust settled and I sat down to eat, my (first) plate of food included: scrambled eggs, french toast (MS Word automatically capitalized french for me, but I changed it back; I’m still not a big fan of the french so their toast will remain lower case), 3 different types of sausage, bacon, a little patty of potato soaked in lard, and an 8 oz steak. So long, turkey sandwich. So long, clear arteries.

I have to admit, this chowfest was enjoyable. It wasn’t even over after the gourmandish experience on aforementioned plate. It was an all-you-can-eat affair so I had to get my money’s worth. I went back for dessert. The picture below shows my dessert – macaroni and cheese and bread pudding soaked in a cream sauce and topped with whipped cream (note that I am texting my cardiologist as I write this).

 

As I left the Country Buffet, I was feeling a bit guilty. The swap out of the turkey sandwich for the scrambled eggs and 3 different kinds of sausage with mac-and-cheese for dessert lunch was not well thought out. But, at least God endowed me with a fast metabolism. I count myself very lucky that I can indulge like that and still walk out at 148 lbs. Others are not so lucky. Most people would pack on 5 lbs with a breakfast like that. And, “most people” were at the Country Buffet. In fact, I felt like a minority in that place with a body mass index below 30 (the official threshold for being obese).

And, that got me wondering? In a country where 30% of us are obese and another 30% overweight, why do we have the all-you-can-eat at the Country Buffet. Answer: because we’re a free country (well, we were until Obama won) and people are willing to pay for it. Why do people who are already 50 lbs overweight go to the Country Buffet? Tougher question and one I don’t know the answer to. But, clearly our country has a weight problem and it is a weighty problem indeed. Sometimes I feel like the entire debate around healthcare costs and programs in this country is one big diversion around the obvious point that if we all ate less and exercised more, it would cost a whole lot less to take care of us.

So, what’s next? I’m not sure. As a good Libertarian, I’m certainly not going to sign up for government regulated brunch. But, I’d sure rather see us solve the obesity problem than have the government take over healthcare like they are now. Then we just end up with a fat country with a lousy healthcare system. Nobody wins in that scenario. I never promised I would solve the world’s (or country’s) problems on this blog nor did I say I’d help you lose weight. But, I did say I might bring a few meaty (sorry, couldn’t resist) issues up. I’d love to see a few comments on this one.

Epilogue: I was feeling so guilty at my son’s first game today about the Country Buffet brunch that I went to Starbucks between games and had a Carmel Macchiato and banana nut bread. What can I say – I needed the coffee because it’s like 58 degrees on October 2nd – further indication that we have global cooling (but I’ll tackle that issue in the next blog).

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About Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson is an amateur writer and professional provocateur
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5 Responses to The Country Buffet

  1. Andy says:

    I once went to Golden Corral…I’m begining to see what the problem is here. I chose not to again partake alongside the gluttonous of the food troughs. (to say nothing of just plain bad food) Then went to Walmart on a Saturday. Gads! How does one get to the point where 80 lbs. overweight is not enough for you, and you have to head north from there? It’s a friggin leper colony. I enjoy your blog, Bruce.
    Cheers!
    -Andy

    • Andy – glad you enjoy it. I’m a bit more sympathetic to this problem of obesity, even though I’m very fortunate to have good genes against it. It’s a tough problem to fight for people who fight it their whole lives. I can understand the “screw it, I give up” mindset. Unfortunately, it’s just terribly unhealthy. Your Golden Corral reminded me of a funny story on perspective. At a New Jersey baseball tournament last month, we took the boys to the Longhorn Steak House for dinner. It was serviceable. About a week later, I had 2 hrs to kill while the boy was at a baseball training facility near Tysons and I had a hankering for a really good steak. So, I popped into Capital Grille and had a great steak. Christian was really pissed when I picked him up from practice b/c he wanted a steak too. I said, “oh sorry. Yeah, I guess we’ve never really taken you to a good steak house.” He looked very confused and said, “you just took me to the Longhorn Steak House like 2 weeks ago.” I don’t plan to do anything to disabuse him of his current definition of “good steak house.”

  2. Blueloom says:

    “Why do people who are already 50 lbs overweight go to the Country Buffet? Tougher question and one I don’t know the answer to.”

    Maybe part of the problem is the proliferation of diet books & diet schemes that get published (OK, OK–I get the First Amendment privilege to say any damn thing you want, even if it’s scientific garbage). I remember a very popular book of some 20 or more years ago with the title “Calories Don’t Count.” Yes they do. It’s simple physics; use up more calories than you take in, and you lose weight. But a decade of dieters was taught that the laws of physics don’t apply to them.

    A friend of mine was following a different diet book that basically said that as long as you’re eating protein, eat as much as you want; you’ll be OK. She nibbled on mixed nuts all day, saying it was OK b/c it was protein. She remains plump to this day.

    Another part of the problem is that we are a relatively wealthy country. People can afford food–lots of it. So we eat lots of it. China, which used to be a country of strong slender people (riding their bikes everywhere) is now raising its first generation of chubby kids (who get driven everywhere and play video games instead of playing outside), at least in the big cities.

    We make our teachers teach to the test, make our kids memorize mostly useless factoids (instead of teaching them how to think), and then take away PE classes and recess, arguing that the school doesn’t have time for those activities.

    Parents use food as a reward: “Be good while I drag you around the mall, and I’ll buy you an ice cream cone on the way home.” Parents also force kids to eat beyond their capacity: “Finish everything on your plate [or else]!” Every child should be able to say, “I’m full,” and be believed by the parent. Otherwise the child (and later adult) loses that little voice inside his/her brain that says, “Stop eating; you’re full.”

    As one who grew up chubby in a chubby family and who chooses to be a slender adult, I could go on & on, but those of you who enjoy reading Bruce’s blog (as I do) probably don’t want to hear any more.

  3. Rodney North says:

    As someone who’s worked in the food industry for 15 years (not counting 3 gigs in restaurants in my youth) I know there are many factors behind why so many Americans have become so fat so quickly — as in this wasn’t a problem for hundreds of years and then – boom – in 30 years we’ve an epidemic that reaches all regions, all classes and all ethnicities (tho’ some more than others).

    But for now I’ll just point to three causes:
    1) Food marketing (billions annually to advertise Coke, beer, Olive Garden and caramel lattes, but no $ to promte carrots, apples or brown rice, etc)
    2) Almost 40 yrs of Gov’t intervention in commodity markets to make certain commodities (especially corn & soy) very cheap – which has in turn encouraged the Con Agra’s, Cargills, Krafts, McD’s and others to use these cheap empty calories ALOT . That in turn means that much less use, and consumption, of healthier ingredients, like fresh fruit & vegetables (which essentially receive no gov’t support and are in part therefore much more expensive per calorie) This Michael Pollan op ed give some insight into this problem http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/opinion/04pollan.html?_r=1
    3) (Bruce, as one w/a PhD in chemistry, you’ll appreciate this) Food manufacturers and menu creators have mastered the formulation of fat, sugar and salt to induce and sustain food cravings even beyond when one is full. It’s called “conditioned hyper-eating” and has been well-described by Dr. David Kessler, who George Bush Sr. appointed to run the FDA. Basically, through careful engineering those Cheeto’s will always have more pull over us than will a slice of wheat toast (and guess which has the higher profit margin for the grocery store and manufacturer?). Here’s a Wall Street Journal interview w/David Kessler http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124084009832659309.html

  4. Rodney North says:

    I know I should drop the subject, but I just came across this item that suggests (but admittedly doesn’t conclusively prove) a connection between an abundance of cheap food and obesity, as in the US has both the world’s cheapest food and fattest citizenry.
    http://tinyurl.com/2fvblq5

    Warning: the last 3rd of the item pursues the issue of income inequality, so for the sake of my main point folks can feel free to stop reading at that point.

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