He saw the abundance of the Old Country Buffet as a symbol of his success, proof that he had transcended his old identity as a poor immigrant.
Going to dinner on the old country buffet menu with prices 2020 in Seattle meant a big evening out for my dad and me. By his own admission, he’s not a very good cook. He could only prepare two dishes, both memories of his childhood in Jakarta, where his family lived before they immigrated to america by means of Holland: babi kecap, a garlicky pork dish simmered in ketjap medja (an Southeast Asian variation on soy sauce also known as kecap manis) and gado-gado, a salad of cucumber and tofu topped with peanut sauce. He never insisted i eat Indonesian food, though, only occasionally preparing babi kecap for dinner. After all, he had arrived at America to live as an American. That meant indulging in a certain quantity of gluttony, a virtue within his mind when it got to eating.
His look at food was, but still is, admirably uncomplicated: Protein reigns supreme, therefore healthy bodies should take in a nightly serving of protein-rich steak or fish. He obsessed over the food groups at the dinner table. There must be three different but complementary parts of food on your own plate: a tiny pile of vegetables (frozen corn or Brussel sprouts, which he dumped into a bowl, and microwaved with a minimum of three pats of butter before serving), a carbohydrate like French-fried potatoes or rice, along with a slab of meat. And nowhere was this philosophy made quite so literal than on the Old Country Buffet.
Whenever you walked within the door, the only thing you were required to do was spend the money for host at the front counter something such as $11 to be granted an all-access pass to stations piled high with thoroughly American food: Main courses included roast beef, fish like halibut and salmon, baked chicken, pork chops, and steak in the event you got lucky. Greasy heaps of mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and green beans and corn that had a suspiciously similar texture for the bagged stuff Dad nuked at home might be bought at a nearby station. The platter of hot dinner rolls, still stuck together in a neat square, enjoyed a glossy sheen. Globs of congealed sauce stuck to the meat, dried out of hours within a heat lamp. I may have only been eight or nine at the time, but even so I suspected the food could not possibly be as healthy as my father insisted it absolutely was.
We filled plastic tumblers with water or soda and sat together in a booth; there have been no waiters, but we sometimes stayed seated up until the crowds around the trays thinned a bit. While we waited, I wasn’t able to drink my beverage, lest I ruin my appetite. Once we served ourselves, I stubbornly picked at my food in silence, upset that I had no say in where or whatever we reached eat. Being raised in American, I looked down on the old country buffet holiday hours as location for people needing charity, while he saw such bountiful vcubkg at such a affordable price being a luxury. Though I never stated it out loud, I felt like my dad was forcing us to eat there while he was cheap, which he was intentionally depriving individuals in the experiences of normal families, who ate at regular restaurants with waitresses.
To tell the truth, my dad may be cheap, and often in terms of eating out. Provided that We have been alive, they have refused to tip waiters, an insufferable trait that has occasionally called to get a clandestine pursuit to an ATM in order that I could sneak employees their due as he used the toilet. Once, when my mother is in the last trimester of her pregnancy with me, she took him to some nice restaurant. He opened the menu, then abruptly got up and left. “I couldn’t stomach spending $70 on one meal. That seemed a little extravagant,” he informed me.