I’m on vacation for the next week, and this poor blog has been neglected for almost a year now. So, time for an update.
Mrs E and I moved up to Washington State back in September, and we’re still getting to know the Pacific Moistwest. As part of that process, we’ve been going on little adventure drives to discover the local campgrounds, state parks, eating places, and things of that nature.
On one of these drives, we got hungry and decided to visit a nearby casino buffet, which looked pretty good on its website. Apparently, Tuesday was “international day”, so we were looking forward to eating our way around the world.
About five minutes after entering and being seated, we were pretty sure we’d made a grave mistake, but we decided to roll with it anyway for fun. Our basic assumption was that this place would at least be on par with a Golden Corral or something similar, but no. Golden Corral is…an aspirational dream for this place, an ambitious life goal, a nigh-unattainable Hollywood Dream waiting to be crushed by cruel reality.
We started at the right of the buffet, working our way towards the left. The international theme was, um, a bit loosely defined, but I’ll lend a helping hand and categorize the offerings by section the best I can.
The Briny Deeps
The offerings in this section were fried fish, fried shrimp, boiled crab, and an assortment of other seafood dishes that looked like the aftermath of an accidental torpedo detonation. The fried fish and fried shrimp were pleasantly edible, but I found the sweaty post-game ballsack aroma of the boiled crab a bit off-putting.
The centerpiece of Meatland was an assortment of raw cooked-to-order beef, glistening moistly and unappetizingly under the harsh glare of overhead fluorescents, and something called a “top round” which resembled an enormous, blubbery tumor. I opted to try the spicy marinated steak and the top round, because why not? It’s an adventure!
The meat-tender carved off a slice of the top round and dropped it onto my plate. Its striated pink character bore an unnerving resemblance to dissected vagina parts, and it made an epic effort at defeating a determined attempt to cut it into pieces, demonstrating a cheerfully rubbery insouciance the entire time. Thirty-five seconds after I succeeded in prizing away a forkful of this delicacy and put it into my mouth, I realized that I could now die a contented man, for never again will I need to idly wonder what beef-flavored chewing gum would be like.
I then turned my attention to the spicy marinated steak. As with the top round, I had to vigorously saw at it with my knife like a Civil War surgeon attempting to amputate a gangrenous toe. The marinade was apparently very light on the spice and very heavy on the sugar, so the reward for my efforts was a juicy explosion of gangrenous toe flavor in my mouth. I would definitely give this a miss next time.
I had also taken a dinner roll from the basket next to the meat display, and it made me wonder just how many people are out there toiling away in the wrong line of work, making miraculous, world-changing discoveries that never reach their fullest potential because they end up being used for the wrong thing. The dinner roll wasn’t just dry, it was essentially a black hole for moisture. My entire mouth, seconds after taking a bite, was drier than the Sahara, and several frantic sips of iced tea later, I’d finally saturated it enough to swallow.
So, anonymous dinner roll maker: Get out of the dinner roll business. Sell them as flood mitigation devices and mark them up 5000%, and you’re set for life. Just break up a dozen of them and scatter them across your front lawn, and your property will be bone dry the next time a flash flood occurs. You know where to mail the royalty checks.
On my return to Meatland, I decided to sample the rotisserie chicken. I was greeted by the sight of a tray filled with fist-sized, rock-hard lumps, of a fleshy color fading into deep reds and scorched blacks. I took one, of course.
Once I’d finally gnawed through the mummified, sun-baked husk of King Chickenhotep I’s remains, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a morsel of tender and flavorful meat deep inside the crunchy, leathery exterior, as if the spirit of Chickenhotep I had been pleased by my sacrifice of dental enamel and found me worthy of his deeply buried treasure. I like to imagine his spirit as a blue, glowing Yul Brynner in period Egyptian costume, giving me a single, solemn nod before slowly fading out of existence.
One tiny section, a handful of trays huddled together for protection. One contained refried beans, which had evolved a thick skin to protect it against the depredations of wild ladles. Breaking through the protective skin layer, I was struck by wonder and fear. Had I disturbed some sort of primordial muck? Would I soon see a methane bubble slowly form, swell, and pop? If I dug a little deeper, would I unearth a dinosaur skull? Are there things within that Man was never meant to discover? I backed away slowly from the primordial beans and hurried out.
A tray of egg rolls, spring rolls, wontons, and something called Southwest Chicken. The Southwest Chicken appeared to be an earnest attempt at so-called “fusion cuisine”, trying to meld together the exotic flavors of Asia, Mexico, and the American Southwest. In practice, it came across as culturally indecisive. It wasn’t bad, it was just a bit like discovering that the middle of your lollipop was made of compacted bouillon cubes instead of Tootsie Rolls. I’m sure there’s someone out there who loves the idea of a surprise mouthful of bouillon after an hour of licking artificial cherry flavoring, but I’m not that guy.
As soon as I’d taken in a mouthful of the bland, stringy vegetables that accompanied the Southwest Chicken, I was overcome by nostalgic memories of my elementary school lunch lady, who lovingly ladled heaps of tasteless vegetable matter onto my tray and promised me that it would make me big and strong one day.
The wontons were another treacherous surprise. Instead of the expected sort of cream-cheese-ish filling I was expected, there was a wad of tasty mystery meat hiding within. It may have been chicken, it may have been pork, but regardless of whatever it was, it was tasty.
Your garden variety salad bar, 50 years after Marx and Lenin got their hands on it. I tried the tomato and cucumber salad, the 4 bean salad, and some kind of pasta salad. All were imbued with some sort of soggy, gray listlessness. Supposedly, there was a five-year waiting list for flavor, but knowing the right party official could reduce it to as little as one year. Illegally smuggled bacon bits and ham chunks from Meatland are a hot black-market commodity, and liven up their otherwise dreary existences. The parsley that immigrated to Meatland is a successful stand-up comedian.
Democratic Republic of Diabeetus
A dessert bar, offering a selection of things like cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, and varieties of nondescript glop in assorted colors. The carrot cake was surprisingly decent. The chocolate brownie wasn’t bad, once I got past the moment when the thick troweled-on layer of frosting delaminated and fell off of it in a single solid piece. The tan brownie, on the other hand, was distressing–it was an unholy abomination, as if everything that made a brownie a brownie was somehow vampirically drained out of it, leaving behind a bland, beige remnant of its former self, doomed to wander the earth for eternity as a parental warning to naughty little brownie bites.
Mrs E had a slice of mint chocolate cream pie, which came across like an overwrought after-school special about not judging others by their looks. Until I beheld its blindingly neon, radioactively green majesty, I had no idea that warning coloration was a thing for food as well as venomous insects and snakes. It looked like a rabbit pooped on a pile of Nickelodeon green slime, but anticlimactically tasted like a perfectly normal mint chocolate cream pie.
And thus our eventful meal came to an end. Groaning, we staggered out to Mrs E’s truck and headed home to sleep it off and plan our next adventure.