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 on the old country buffet menu in Seattle meant a large particular date for my dad and me. By their own admission, he’s not an excellent cook. He could only prepare two dishes, both memories of his childhood in Jakarta, where his family lived before they immigrated to the United States 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 which i eat Indonesian food, though, only occasionally preparing babi kecap for dinner. After all, he had visit America to live such as an American. That meant indulging in a certain amount of gluttony, a virtue within his mind if it arrived at 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 red meat or fish. He obsessed within the food groups at the dinner table. There has to be three different but complementary sections of food on your own plate: a small pile of vegetables (frozen corn or Brussel sprouts, that he dumped into a bowl, and microwaved with at the very least three pats of butter before serving), a carbohydrate like French-fried potatoes or rice, as well as a slab of meat. And nowhere was this philosophy made quite so literal than at the Old Country Buffet.
Once you walked in the door, all you had to do was spend the money for host in 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 loads of mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and green beans and corn which had a suspiciously similar texture towards the bagged stuff Dad nuked in the home may be available at a nearby station. The platter of hot dinner rolls, still stuck together in a neat square, had a glossy sheen. Globs of congealed sauce stuck towards the meat, dried out from hours within a heat lamp. I may have only been eight or nine during the time, but even then I suspected that this food could not often be as healthy as my father insisted it 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 across the trays thinned just a little. Basically we waited, I wasn’t allowed to drink my beverage, lest I ruin my appetite. When we served ourselves, I stubbornly picked at my food in silence, upset i had no say in where or what we got to eat. Being raised in American, I looked down on the old country buffet hours of operation as spot for people needing charity, while he saw such bountiful vcubkg at this kind of low cost as being a luxury. Though I never stated it out loud, I felt like my dad was forcing us to eat there because he was cheap, and this he was intentionally depriving individuals from the experiences of normal families, who ate at regular restaurants with waitresses.
To be honest, my father may be cheap, and often in terms of eating out. As long as I have been alive, he has refused to tip waiters, an insufferable trait that has occasionally called to get a clandestine pursuit to an ATM so that I was able to sneak the employees their due as he used the bathroom. Once, when my mother was in the ultimate trimester of her pregnancy with me, she took him to your 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 told me.