The Assisted Buffet

It’s been a bit since we’ve logged anything particularly interesting enough to blog about. Back in the US of A for a few months, we’ve mostly been catching up with friends, enjoying unseasonably warm Colorado weather, complete with some Christmas week golf, and attending to medical and dental needs while in our home state and with a medical system with which we are more familiar. That said, the other night we were talking about our travels north in Portugal in September and it hit me: a topic. What, you may ask, might this elusive subject be? The Assisted Buffet.

First, may I recall and recount a wedding in Hawaii followed by a morning-after buffet breakfast. Like a normal American buffet it was loaded with options. Pans overflowing with pork sausage and bacon. An omelette station. The toast-your-own revolving toaster spitting out variously browned slices of bread and English muffins. Scoops of fruit here, piles of pancakes there. And out of the shadows he comes, tightly fitting t-shirt clinging to his ample frame, dirty baseball hat cocked, unknowingly, slightly to one side. Four plates in his mitts like they were about to run out. I have to be honest, I’d never seen anyone go at a buffet with such reckless abandon and fear that a breakfast food shortage must be just around the bend. He heaped, with his no-one-knows-when-last-washed bare hands, such copious amounts of food on to aforementioned plates that I thought surely he’s collecting for a family of five (alas, I was so enthralled in this saga I watched him sit and consume and the other four in his party never materialized. Perhaps they got the time wrong).

Having spent much time in business meetings and many nights at Hampton Inns, I’ve always been a bit skittish of the buffet. You never really know where the last person’s hands were before cuddling up to and rifling through the bread options for the toaster or clutching the salad tongs or the ladle for the soup. I was an avid fan of Purel before COVID made it trendy and hip. I’ve opened doors with my sleeve, elbow or back long before I ever thought I’d own a collection of face masks. Call me crazy, but I like being well.

So it was that we ventured north for three+ weeks in Portugal, during a pandemic we thought at the time was waning, albeit in a country with a 90% vaccination rate. If you’ve been to Europe, you know that the breakfast buffet is common and often complimentary with the room rate. But lo and behold, a solution lies in the midst of COVID times, “the assisted buffet”! You approach with your plate (and obligatory mask), point and indicate and a gloved, masked buffet attendant procures the items your heart desires. Sure, we could all get sick if said attendant is non-hygienic but we do live in the world, we aren’t THAT crazy. It just seems a much more effective and sanitary way to conduct a buffet, after all.

Alas, I don’t think this development will last. When COVID is finally gone or at least isn’t shutting down schools, borders and events, I imagine assisted buffets will go the way of the do-do. But wouldn’t it be nice if this development of pandemic times became a thing? I, for one, vote yes.

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