It was, perhaps, the greatest deal ever. And no one—and I mean no one—loved a deal better than my Dad. Pie and potato salad, jello and spaghetti, french fries and fried chicken. More and more and more. Every favorite food, as much as we wanted, piled high to the sky? How could we not love it too?
The All You Can Eat Cafeteria Buffet at Cedar Point! Five dollars per person per plate. The bills almost flew from my Dad’s silver money clip. The line was long but who cared? We fell in step, it was worth the waiting for what was sure to be the best—oh really the very best— dinner of our whole lives. Can you imagine?
Crowd control for the rides was the same crowd control at The All You Can Eat Buffet. We were squeezed single file into line with metal barricades. No turning back, but who wanted to? We pushed forward slowly, with tiny shuffling steps. Almost there!
Although the trays made perfect shields, jousting with the butter knives was frowned upon. Would we ever get to the food?
And at last we did. There it was, all within reach, cherry pie, apple pie, peach pie and Lemon meringue! Chocolate cake, cheesecake, strawberry shortcake! Butterscotch pudding and fudge ripple ice cream! Meatballs and macaroni, corn dogs and cole slaw, baked beans and beef stroganoff, mashed potatoes and waffles. Everything we loved, as much as we wanted, everything we wanted most. But alas!
One time in line. One plate per person. Each plate the size of saucer.
As always, when one cannot move from side to side, there is no where to go but up, a vertical tower of treats, a geological layering of dinner, core, mantle crust.
Whipped cream melted into tomato sauce blended into hollandaise, covering chop suey that crammed into macaroni and cheese covered by orange sherbet. Waldorf salad topped swedish meatballs followed by blueberry pancakes. Edible tower of Pisa, teetering, towering and toppling. My fork plunged through the mashed gray layers, digging up sad and sodden bitefuls.
We left, and we left hungry.
My eating these days tends towards the more sedate. The only layering I tend to do is carefully placing vegetables atop grain bowls or gracefully topping yogurt with nuts and dried fruit.
And yet, all these years later and once again I find my self ravenously hungry, feeling as if I am anxiously standing in line, tiny plate in hand.
The pile of ungraded papers keeps rising as the red marking pen slips from my fingers. Have I read this book or that one? Did I make the call? Is there a show I need to be seeing or recommending? Where was that meeting? Who wants to meet with me now? What am I making for dinner? Whom did I forget and how could I?
Oh, my plate feels so small! But I wonder, if this time instead of piling my plate oh so high perhaps better to just pick carefully at this and that?
A tiny plate. A few bites. It will be enough. I can go through the line more than once!