Opinions

Opinion: Why You Should Skip The Buffet This Holiday

December 23, 2016

Most people have not participated in an orgy. (Don’t take my word for it.) But they have participated in a buffet, which is about the same fleshy experience, only with a waiting line.

“Sacrilege! How dareth ye scorn our beloved Christmas tradition,” you cry. “These are the holidays. We want to–no–need to celebrate. You can’t just storm our party and turn off the music.” You’re right. I am all for continuing the festivities. I just wonder: might there be an alternate way to express our joy with the people we love where we don’t try to fit as much food down our gullets as physically possible?

The hedonistic extravaganza that has come to define our Christmas meal is getting out of hand. Unlimited food. Unlimited drinks. Unlimited appetites. Clearly, we value quantity over quality—whoever has the most chomps per second wins.

Try drawing a parallel and ask yourself: would you watch ten bad short films instead of one great feature length? After all, ten stories crammed into the length of a single movie must be giving you more than a single movie is worth. Most of us would say no to the ten films, yet still want to dive into a buffet. But why?

sushi-marina-bay-sands

Image courtesy of Marina Bay Sands.

Now there are some buffets that offer quality food (I have dreams about the Spirals cheese room), but most don’t. Quality doesn’t refer to whether you like it or not. Any buffet could easily line the entrance with a small army of everyone’s beloved California Maki; you take your three pieces and go on your merry way. Catering to popular preferences is the easy part.

But imagine waking up tomorrow as the proud owner of Vikings. If for every 20 pesos you save from each customer means that you can buy a brand new car at the end of the month, what would you do? Surely it isn’t increasing the quality of your ingredients. The challenge is and has always been: “How do I bring down the quality of ingredients without people figuring it out so I can make more money?”

Flash them with crystal chandeliers and cavernous ceilings! Add an all-you-can-drink station! Throw in a whole pig carcass glowing under a bright lamp! Anything that emphasizes the excess draws attention away from the minute details of the buffet: the wilting salad bar, square-cut and square-tasting desserts, the rubber shoe roast beef.

For those that love food for the sake of good food, and not for the sake of filling yourself up like a Christmas stocking: it’s okay to skip the buffet. There are better options. There are cheaper options. When those options overlap, it no longer makes sense to eat at a buffet. With the current Philippine culinary landscape, those options are only expanding.

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Toyo’s silog recently made it onto the World’s 50 Best page as a tastemaker’s dish of the year. Much higher quality than tempura fried in three-day-old oil.

Instead of paying P2,350 for Circles at Shangri-La Makati, enjoy six plates at Tim Ho Wan for less. Instead of spending P1,438 at Niu by Vikings, have an elegant evening at Toyo Eatery with a P1,000 set menu and a craft beer for P250. Instead of the enticing P888 deal of Dad’s or Sambokojin, take your friends to spend the same on a huge feast at Manam.

Do yourself a favor and actually get your money’s worth by paying for good quality food without allowing an abominable amount of excess to go to waste. Restaurant waste is a real problem, and buffets are one of the worst perpetrators. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) declares 1.3 billion tons of food go to waste yearly, with FNRI-DOST estimating 3.29kg food waste per year per Filipino.

While we lack local statistics focused on buffets, the practice is likely to be similar in several Philippine establishments as it is abroad, wherein food waste is disposed instead of given away to employees or shelters to discourage the staff from “conveniently overestimating” the dining headcount.

I won’t deny it: I have mindlessly engorged myself in unlimited dimsum promos until my cheeks resembled the dough sitting before me. I get it. Imagining a room filled with trays upon trays of your favorite food would light anyone up—ten kinds of sushi and sashimi to start. Fancy cheese and cold cuts as the main course. 10 ebi tempura, all for you! It’s enough to make you forget that you still have a tomorrow to look forward to.

But the promise of food as extravagant in flavor as it is in its presentation is hardly ever fulfilled. As you enter the banquet room, you are jilted into reality by the children picking up the sweet bread rolls and dumping them back in the bread basket’s heaping pile. The old lady cutting in the turkey line, her plate already loaded with a triple-stack roast beef dripping in grayish gravy. The sauce ladle sticky with fingerprints, and hard bits of sauce dried around the edges of the cold saucer.

Eating until your girth rivals the Death Star often leaves you feeling like you just drunkenly tried to get back with your ex: ashamed, unloved, and just plain gross.

If you’re not in a hurry to choke and wither, having ten mixed meat burger steaks will not give you the same pleasure as one perfectly seared medium-rare wagyu steak. And the falling in line to serve yourself a meal in a glorified cafeteria is miles apart from being a luxury experience. You could be comfortably seated at a spacious table for 2 and be served uni pasta by a gracious waiter who pours you water, looks you in the eye, and smiles as they ask if you need anything else.

We spend way too much time debating on strategies on how best to win a buffet–yes win, like a cockfight–than we do sitting down in meaningful conversation. If eating out is meant to ease the stress and effort of making your own meal, why are buffets so stressful?

So next time you plan to treat yourself to a special meal for the holidays, consider what truly makes eating out worthwhile. Here’s a clue: it’s not measured by how many grams of painstakingly dismantled crab meat you can take down in 3 hours.

Bea Osmeña SEE AUTHOR Bea Osmeña

Bea Osmeña is a healthy-ish eater who is just as likely to take you to a vegan joint as she is to consume a whole cheese pie to herself. A former picky eater, Bea has discovered the joys of savory fruit dishes, but still refuses to accept pineapples on her pizza. On the rare occasion you catch her without food in her mouth, you are likely to find her looking at books she can't afford, hugging trees, or talking to strange animals on the street.

7 comments in this post SHOW

7 responses to “Opinion: Why You Should Skip The Buffet This Holiday”

  1. Joe M says:

    As mentioned, this is an opinion piece. Though I respect your right to have one, it does not necessarily mean I agree with it. I like buffets just so I can sample a lot of dishes, having seconds of those which I really like. Plus I have a big appetite which cannot be sated by set menus. I am more of a gourmand rather than a gourmet eater.

    • Bea Osmeña says:

      I get where you’re coming from. I get the appeal of that when you get sick of a flavor easily. Thanks for leaving a comment. 🙂

  2. @ink.stagram says:

    Amen!

  3. Ann says:

    Quite unpopular opinion, but I agree with this. And I find it annoying when people say “bakit pag inubos ba namin lahat ng natira mabubusog ba yung mga walang makain??” Maybe next time try not to be a glutton.

    • Bea Osmeña says:

      Right?! I wish we were able to get statistics on food wastage in Philippine buffets per person, but I am sure that’s information buffet owners do not want revealed at any cost. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Cartoon says:

    Yes! This is exactly what I’m pointing out too! You said it all right 🙂

    Total the whole bill for a quality restaurant than a buffet, you can probably get a lesser bill. Although high-end buffet don’t count because it’s really expensive.

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