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Buffeting the Buffet

By Lavender September 25, 2008

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Iver’s Country Kitchen Buffet began offering midafternoon discounts on September 8 from 2:30 to 4 every weekday. Those not burdened by societal interaction can take advantage of Iver’s smorgasbord delights. The early afternoon of that day, as corroborated by my diary, was spent determining the date I purchased an aging, but resilient, cucumber.

While sorting through a pile of old supermarket receipts, I found, on the back of one, a coupon for Iver’s. On the front of the very receipt was incontrovertible proof of the cucumber’s August 24 purchase—well within the pickling window.

As I’ve always done with the arrival of a new smorgasbord, I called to discuss its ground rules. I asked to speak to Iver himself, unwilling once again to be victimized by the false assurances of an overzealous staffer.

When Iver picked up the receiver, I immediately launched my opening salvo, speaking directly to the issue of “all you can eat” and its enforceability in the State of Minnesota: “Can I, or can I not, sir, hold my plate before the meat carver for an unlimited period of time?”

Iver was evasive. He had made a career as a buffet apologist, but was unwilling to lose a customer, especially one so deft with a ladle.

He said “the industry” discouraged multiple slices in “one stand.” The issue, as he saw it, was one of wasted food.

“If that was the case,” I said, “you might want to revisit your doggy-bag policy.”

His response was one I’ve heard hundreds of times: “Your point is a valid point, but not a good point.”

Iver invited me to his Country Kitchen Buffet to take advantage of the midafternoon prices. I had already had lunch at 11 and 1, and was not planning on a third. I asked him if I could have access to the kid’s macaroni bar, and he said OK, out of professional reciprocity.

I arrived at Iver’s at 3:15, in time for the ceremonial pouring of the franks and beans. The hostess asked if I’d ever been to a smorgasbord before. I told her I had, but needed to brush up on the do’s and don’ts. After a tour of the utensils, she pointed out the booths reserved for two or more, leaving those of us “under two” with obstructed views of the ham.

“Follow me,” she instructed, walking to a small table directly in front of the only other table occupied at the time. The gentleman there had arrived five minutes earlier, and had already snared the meatball I’d been eyeing from the parking lot.

I approached my assigned table, faced with a dilemma I have wrestled with for years: Once I have reached the table, is it necessary actually to sit down for the several seconds it takes for the hostess to clear one’s airspace? In England, I believe this is the accepted protocol. But in America, the freedom uncouthly to exercise one’s freedom overrides the obligation to humor the civil.

As such, I decided not to sit, and as soon as the hostess’s back was turned, I triple-jumped in the direction of the food.

I grabbed a plate, and walked past the lettuce with the same look of befuddlement as when I walked past the $100 blackjack table. After 15 seconds of trying to impress the busboy that I was contemplating a vegetable, I made my way over to the “Hot Food”—a sign one sees in all five-star establishments.

After dishing up spaghetti from a tray marked “stuffing” (which is why I do not recommend Iver’s for a first-timer), I scoured the “International Cuisine,” which featured four countries’ use of chicken and Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup.

That left me standing before the meat carver. I said, “Ham please,” courteous, and to the point. He put a slice on my plate, and then directed his attention to a distant constellation.

I stood there, awaiting another slice. My ace in the hole was that I could wait until November 4, the day of my public nuisance appeal. We stood, face to face, waiting for the other to blink, or to get a better job.

Finally, after several tension-filled minutes, we had no choice but to send the matter to Iver for arbitration.

At 3:45, he ruled in my favor. The doggy-bag ruling he let stand.

Consider the source here, but that explains why all my purses are lined with plastic.

Bye for now.
Kiss, kiss

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