How to enjoy a buffet

I guess you pay more for the art than the drink itself.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

No work, no engagements, no chores, nothing to do… but eat. It was April 9, a holiday here in the Philippines, and a perfect day for a buffet.

Early this year, I got two free buffet vouchers for Circles Restaurant in Shangri-La Hotel in Makati. It was my reward from a bank for zapping P25,000 worth of purchases using my credit card late last year.

When my wife and I got to Circles, there were only a few people. Soon enough, however, people started to arrive. I suddenly felt like meditating and saying,   “Ommm….” I’ve never seen so many Buddha-like figures in my life.
Fortunately, I snapped out of my trance and we started to survey the beautiful gastronomic landscape.

After 15 years of no-holds-barred buffet experience, I’ve come up with a few guidelines on how to enjoy buffets without appearing to be PG, or patay gutom, or famished. I can’t think of a better translation right now.

1. Learn about the terrain.

That’s rule number 10 in Sun Tzu’s Art of War. You have to know the exits, the weak spots, the points of entry, anything that would make your movement easier. We were near the Chinese section. Lots of dimsum, Peking duck, white chicken, etc. So we started looking there. Our eyes glowed like a lamp. Then we went on to the Indian section with all those spicy food, the Italian section with the pastas, the grilling section with the roast beef and pork chops, the salad and appetizer section with the vegetables and cheeses, the deserts section with all the sweet stuff, and the Japanese section with all the delicious raw food.

Learning about the terrain is important. You have to know how to get around and plan your attack.

2. Unbuckle your belt.

Wearing a tight belt won’t allow you to get in all the food you want in your stomach. So before you begin, it might be a good idea to loosen up your belt a bit. I used to wear my belt tight even though I knew my waistline grew by 2 inches. I was in a state of denial. Besides, I really thought I could reduce my waistline by keeping my belt tight. I also used to have a “high waist” before, wearing my belt 2 inches higher than narrow part of my torso. So if you have this same fashion sense as I did, forget it. It will ruin your enjoyment of the buffet.

By the way, wearing tight underwear is also a bad idea.

3. Remember the 80/20 rule.

I just love this rule. You can apply it with almost everything in life. And we have the Italian sociologist and economist Vilifredo Pareto to thank. It simply means you get 80 percent of your results with 20 percent of the effort, 80 percent of your revenues from only 20 percent of your customers, 80 percent of the important stuff from only 20 percent of the book, 80 percent of the country’s wealth belong to 20 percent of the population, 80 percent of your enjoyment from only 20 percent of the dishes. Of course, the percentages could vary.

For me, the salmon sashimi, baked salmon, roast beef, and the cheeses make up that 20 percent. They’re much more expensive than the other dishes, too. So go for the dishes that you really like.

I love roast beef. I think this is my 5th plate.

4. Eat with other people.

Some research show that people eat 28 percent more when eating with a companion. This increases to 35 percent when eating with a large group. So if you want to eat more, or if you’re a fierce advocate of the so-called “see food” diet, bring along the gang or your family. Since I was with my wife, I probably ate only 28 percent more.

5. Don’t order special drinks.

If you’re going to fill your stomach with only the good stuff you enjoy, don’t order juices or other high-calorie drinks. Drinking lots of fluids make you feel full faster. And they sometimes make you puke, too. With all that food in your over-extended fist-sized stomach, adding rich juices will make you feel worse. Besides, they’re expensive, too. We paid P300 for a fruit shake with a slice of pineapple shaped like a rooster, which, I think, made up 80 percent of the price.

Sipping a little water from time to time is the best thing to do.

6. Don’t fill your plates.

As I said, you wouldn’t want to look PG. So try to make it appear that you’re an abstemious food lover who only enjoys eating small amounts. You will enjoy your food more that way. Some people get overwhelmed with the food on the buffet tables. Why overwhelm yourself more with too much food on your plates?

The trick is to get a little food at a time and savor them while thinking, “This is the good life.”

7. Savor the food.

Oh, I think I just repeated myself. So there, savor the food. Try to identify the tastes in your mouth. Sometimes, we just gulp down the food without trying to really enjoy them. Savoring is enjoying the moment, enjoying life. There’s no need to hurry, except of course if there are a lot of PGs around.

My wife Em certainly knows how to savor the food.

8. Have a good conversation while eating.

Our parents taught us not to talk while our mouth is full. So make sure you talk when you’re mouth is only half full. Be careful not to be overeager when talking and inadvertently launch a morsel of half digested or half-chewed roast beef to your companion.

Talk about the food, your hopes, your dreams, your frustrations, your dog, your cat, the people around you. Having a good conversation while eating is very enjoyable for me.

In other words, act like a dainty aristocrat and keep the conversation going.

9. Reserve some room for dessert.

I sometimes forget about this. And I regret it afterwards. Desserts complete your buffet. In order for you to truly exercise your tongue and your taste buds, you have to complete the spectrum of tastes. Sweet is the perfect finale.

Cakes, chocolates, tarts, etc… they all help complete your buffet experience.

10. Have a stroll afterwards.

When you’re sated to the max and feel you’ve had enough, you can try strolling afterwards. Of course, that is after you pay. Otherwise you’ll be made to stroll into the kitchen instead and asked to start washing 1,000 plates and 1,000 sets of cutlery and glasses. It could be worse.

Having a stroll helps you digest. Walking probably helps push down the food into your convoluted intestines faster.

Eating at buffets can be truly enjoyable, provided you don’t do it too often. All that rich food could be cloying, too, you know. But we don’t have to be a PG. There will always be another day.

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2 Responses to “How to enjoy a buffet”

  1. Hi there:) My bf and I will be going to eat at a buffet and I stumbled upon your website upon searching some tips on how to enjoy a buffet. I like your tips and I enjoyed reading them all throughout. It makes me laugh as well. I really agree with the 80/20 rule by eating the food we like best. I also like the part where we should just fill our plates in small amounts.. because otherwise it is very intimidating..

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