He saw the abundance of the Old Country Buffet as a symbol of his success, proof that he had transcended his old identity as being a poor immigrant.
Going to dinner in the old country buffet menu prices in Seattle meant a large evening out for my dad and me. By his very 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 through Holland: babi kecap, a garlicky pork dish simmered in ketjap medja (an Southeast Asian variation on soy sauce also called kecap manis) and gado-gado, a salad of cucumber and tofu topped with peanut sauce. He never insisted which i eat Indonesian food, though, only occasionally preparing babi kecap for lunch. In the end, he had come to America to reside like an American. That meant indulging in a certain amount of gluttony, a virtue within his mind when it came to eating.
His take a look at food was, but still is, admirably uncomplicated: Protein reigns supreme, therefore healthy bodies should take in a nightly serving of protein-rich red meat or fish. He obsessed over the food groups on the dinner table. There has to be three different but complementary sections of food on your plate: a small pile of vegetables (frozen corn or Brussel sprouts, which he dumped in to a bowl, and microwaved with at the very least three pats of butter before serving), a carbohydrate like French fries or rice, and a slab of meat. And nowhere was this philosophy made quite so literal than at the Old Country Buffet.
Once you walked within the door, all you had to do was pay for the 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 should you got lucky. Greasy heaps of mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and green beans and corn which had a suspiciously similar texture for the bagged stuff Dad nuked at home may be found at a nearby station. The platter of hot dinner rolls, still stuck together in a neat square, experienced a glossy sheen. Globs of congealed sauce stuck towards the meat, dried out of hours within a heat lamp. I might only have been eight or nine at the time, but even then I suspected that this food could not often be as healthy as my father insisted it had been.
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 across the trays thinned a bit. While we waited, I wasn’t allowed to drink my beverage, lest I ruin my appetite. After we served ourselves, I stubbornly picked at my food in silence, upset which i had no say in where or what we should have got to eat. Growing up in American, I looked down on the http://www.oldcountrybuffet.com/ as location for people needing charity, as he saw such bountiful vcubkg at such a affordable price being a luxury. Though I never said it out loud, I felt like my dad was forcing us to enjoy there as he was cheap, and this he was intentionally depriving people from the experiences of normal families, who ate at regular restaurants with waitresses.
To be honest, my dad could be cheap, and often when it comes to eating out. So long as I actually have been alive, he has refused to tip waiters, an insufferable trait that has occasionally called for a clandestine pursuit to an ATM to ensure that I was able to sneak employees their due while he used the toilet. Once, when my mother was in the ultimate 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 a single meal. That seemed somewhat extravagant,” he told me.