Rockford has not one, but two all you can eat buffet restaurants and they are only about a block apart. The competition is fierce. Even in Belvidere, we get coupons from one restaurant or the other about every other week. Despite the siren song of savings, I wasn’t really tempted to eat at an all you can eat buffet until Daniel started wearing a shoe size larger than mine. I thought it might be a good idea to make a test run prior to his becoming a teenager. It might allow us to stay financially solvent.
It was already dark when we pulled in the parking lot. The car was bathed in red from the never ending stream of menu items on the restaurant sign. It was a full house. Everyone in line had the coupons too. However, things moved quickly and Daniel and I found a seat near the door.
“Here’s the way it works,” I said. “You can take whatever food you want, but you have to eat it. I don’t want it to go to waste.” Daniel nodded. He took one of the big white plates and began scooping out mashed potatoes.
“You might want to look around a bit,” I said.
“I like mashed potatoes,” he said.
“I know, but you might like something else better,” I said. “You might want to check out the other stations before you commit.” Daniel put the spoon back in the tray reluctantly and walked around the other tables. He stopped at the dessert station, but I didn’t even give him time to grin.
“But I like this better than mashed potatoes,” he said to no avail. Mean Dad still shook his head no and made him turn back to the real food.
Besides the mashed potatoes, Daniel came back to the table with a slice of ham, what looked like sweet and sour chicken and a small hot dog. He rolled the wiener around in the orange sauce and pronounced it delicious.
“I can make my own recipe with this,” he said. “I’ll call it the hot, sweet and sour dog!” I’m not sure what “old country” the buffet originated from, so I refrained from dismissing the idea completely out of hand.
Round two was salad: four pieces of iceberg lettuce and a tomato slice covered in enough bacon bits to reconstitute a pig. And more mashed potatoes. I have to admit that mixing the mashed potatoes with bacon bits looked pretty good to me. I went back up and got a scoop myself.
“Daniel, I’m sorry I ever doubted you,” I said. “You really don’t like anything more than mashed potatoes, do you?” Daniel’s third plate had a little bit of corn, a little bit of green beans, a lot of mashed potatoes and a taco.
“I’ve never had tacos with mashed potatoes before,” he said.
I’m forty two years old. I’ve never had mashed potatoes with a taco before either. Daniel reported the taco shell worked quite well as a scoop and the drippings from the taco meat made a “Mexican Gravy” that was incomparable.
“You should try it,” he said, getting up for more. I remained where I was, listening to the menacing creak of my belt struggling to hold in the two plates of cafeteria food I had consumed. The buffet closes at eight thirty and it was almost nine. Daniel’s fourth and final plate was color coordinated.
“I got all white food,” he explained. “It matches the plate, see?” He had some grilled fish, cauliflower and a biscuit.
“No mashed potatoes?” I asked.
“They ran out,” Daniel replied.
ESPN covers the hot dog eating contest on Coney Island every Fourth of July. If they wanted to see some real competition, they should really follow a bunch of teenagers as they make their way through the buffet like locusts. It was an amazing sight. We closed down the restaurant and headed home with one final stop… for dessert.