As I mentioned in the last Fuzzy Memory, Chinese food (the real stuff) is my passion. There was no better place that I was able to display that passion than at the Chinese Buffet.
I grew up here in Maryland and for the most part, Chinese food outings consisted of going to one of three or four places, all of which were of the sit down and order variety. Your typical dinner consisted of walking into the place and receiving an over the top greeting. It was like an eruption of noises,
"Oooo, wong time no see"
"Oooo, de kids have gotten so big"
Then we'd get to a table, he'd already know what we wanted (anyone will tell you I really don't vary much on my food choices) and the feast would begin. But with that feast, you are limited to just what you order and to the size of their portions.
But then I went down to North Carolina. Most Chinese place around Davidson sucked, so one day we took a trip up to the neighboring town of Mooresville (home of NASCAR hero, Dale Earnhardt, YIK YIK YIK). And that's where I saw my life-long nemesis, The Chinese Buffet.
I had never heard of such a thing given my sheltered upbringing, but as I entered their halls and was greeted by the golden dragons and porcelain fish bowls, I knew I was in for a battle. And then I saw it, about twenty feet long, full of all my favorite dishes: Egg Rolls, Wonton Soup, Fried Wontons, Wonton Soup, Lo Mein, General Tso's, Chicken with Brocolli, Pepper Steak, Chicken Chow Mein, Crab Legs. WHAT??? Crab Legs?? Yep. I don't know why either, but the game plan was soon forged after several visits.
If you wish to beat the buffet, follow my sage advice:
Upon receiving your seat, you will be immediately confronted by your "waiter." He may seem especially friendly and helpful, but he is only here to hurt you. He will immediately offer you a drink. You will think you need one given his chipper manner and broken english, but you mustn't order anything carbonated. When you simply order a water, he will give you a disappointed face, but don't worry, that means you've already passed the first test. Beware though, the waiters (there are many surrounding the eating area) are ready to pounce the minute you take a sip, refilling your drink, baiting you to drink more.
How much have I drank? I don't know, my glass is always full.
These people didn't wreck the curves in your high school math classes for no reason, they are very calculating.
Onward to the buffet.
Your first stop on the buffet is the appetizers. Though they are delicious and very tempting, most are fried and contain a lot of "fried" that is really not food at all. Fried wontons and rangoon are the worst, you're barely getting 25% of the value out of eat piece. I can't pass up these things, but they are always working against me. Minimize the damage done.
Next is soup. You better be willing to lose to the buffet if you want soup. It's a guaranteed breaker. That's all I'll say about that.
Given this breakdown, fill your plate with an assortment of appetizers, avoiding too much of the fried stuff, though grabbing rangoon and wondering how exactly it's made (tug, tug, jerk, jerk) always lightens the mood early. Round 1 is complete.
Round 2, Fight.
Don't mess around. You know where the real money is at and you've got to bite the bullet. Crab Legs may not be Chinese, but for $9.99, you better fight that fat kid with the bad fade and the Rusty Wallace T-shirt for every last leg you can find. Fill a whole plate, and you can coast to a victory. The head Buffet monitor will pull some shit like,
"Oh, more wirr be coming, herp yourserf to udder suff whire e is made"
Don't try and pull that shit with me, Bruce Lee, I'm a pro at this. I'll just sit and wait.
Round 2 is complete.
Round 3, FIGHT.
You're probably feeling good right now, as the crab legs aren't that filling (NO BUTTER DAMMIT) and the appetizers are just starting to hit the edge of the stomach lining. Now you must go in for the kill. This round is exclusively Chinese meals. That's what you came for, you're on top, put this one away with style. Lo Mein is a sucker's paradise, but getting it is like getting dunked on when your team is already up by 20. Scoreboard baby. Scoreboard. There's about ten dead crabs that say I'm beating your ass by now.
But this isn't just about winning. It's about truly beating the buffet. Round 3 complete. Onward to the victory lap.
Final Round, FIGHT.
The waiters are pissed by now (Wait til they realize I'm gonna tip them by rounding up to the nearest dollar). You're mocking them and doing your best Chinese guy impersonation. Intentionally spilling water on the floor just to see if they'll keep filling up your glass. And you're about to give it the money shot...they've got soft serve. How sweet it is. Chocolate, Vanilla, Swirl. I just coats the stomach.
Victory is yours. You have now beaten the buffet. But wait, what's that pain? In my stomach? Ahhh.
"Oh no, victowy is awways mine" (GONG)
Man, I seriously have some issues. I need to go see someone.