The buffet. The socially acceptable place to gorge yourself to bloatation. To force feed yourself like a festive goose. You can eat seconds, thirds, even sevenths. Sidestep the side plate and head to the larger for your starter. Trust me on this Please. I come from a foodie family. They encourage eating. It?s a compulsion. It borders on some sort of eating disorder.
My family?s the kind that sees you and says, ?my-my, you?ve put on weight!? Unlike most families, the connotations are nearly always positive. Shimmering eyes that glisten like polished diamonds gaze at you as family members incessantly grab your cheeks in a dramatic display of familial love. Worse still is the notion that ?you?re too skinny!? This line of argument often forces parents to field off questions from well-meaning, if not intrusive elders who have too much experience, wisdom and love to be reckoned with. It?s no wonder that the prospect of unlimited food and unrestrained helpings, not to mention unmonitored by my Big Fat Greek Wedding-sized family, is so psychologically compelling on Hangover Sunday. It allows me to regain my strength gradually, and anyway, it?s more cardio than I?d be doing lying in a blacked-out bedroom fumbling for bottles of water and paracetamol.

The buffet makes Man feel victorious over all food groups. He presides over his edible domain with a salivating mouth and anxious hands. Secretly all that?s lacking is elasticated trousers, since being limited by fabric is an insult to his masculinity. But today Modern Man can have a day off from the drudgery of the kill, relax, and fill up on meat galore. For poor 1950s-style wives, yes, there are still some among us, the day?s cooking is spared her. Parental responsibility is limited to ensuring that their little angels don?t make a mess, cause a commotion, or vomit on a silver platter.

I feel, however, that the buffet is a place of equal splendour and whimsy as any theme park to a child. The real beauty of it is they can pick what they want, and for children this is the most magnetizing part. There are no real rules. No enforced Brussels sprouts. The principles of free will are of the utmost importance here. It?s an exercise in parental trust in their children and childhood mistrust in endlessly nagging adults. Gleeful, open-mouthed faces scanning endless deserts and artisanal fruit arrangements make them wonder just how far they can push it. After all, no parent likes a scene. They surreptitiously load their plates with enough sugary delights to keep them awake for a fortnight. Staining their Sunday best with remnants of a strawberry cheesecake smeared into just ironed clothing.

There?s enough to feed the Third World, yet we still feel deflated when, on reflection, we missed out on some crab claws or some kind of overcooked rice dish. The family leaves the restaurant in a near narcotized stupor that makes the drive back heavenly with the appetite fully satiated.

For the freedom it entails and the sheer abundance of foods, many of which we rarely eat, the buffet is the apex of eating experiences. It offers up choice without the requirement to plan and prepare. It removes us from queues and GST laden food prices that, for the moment, seem to be ever-soaring. We pay upfront, have a general idea of what we?re getting and can?t easily get a refund if we don?t like it. It gives us the illusion of choice at a fixed price and I for one like it more than heavy bags of food, bored checkout staff and extortion.