Last update : Monday, 22 December 2008
Scenario and tips for a successful buffet raid
After years of building up frustration while patiently lining up to collect food from buffet tables only to find all the good stuff gone or contaminated by the time it was my turn and being by-passed by apologizing queue jumpers, the need for developing an aggressive strategy became a compulsive necessity. After subsequent years of careful observation of common behaviour of buffet guests, waitresses and caterers, I was able to develop a detailed standard operating procedure with the sole aim to deplete buffets of any setting of all delicacies of excellent quality.
The first thing to define for yourself is the goodies of your choice. Personally, I go for unabridged sea food because this is usually fresh by necessity. If not so, it is simply obnoxious and well, quite frankly stinks and tastes of ammonia. Excessive lemon garnishing should alert you as this disguises any warning odours. Ice-bedded Oysters, Lobster, Shrimp and Prawns varieties, Crab, Salmon, Swordfish, Salmon eggs, caviar, sushi and to a lesser degree sweet-water fish such as trout filets and eel are on my prime list. Don’t fall for the grilled Salmon on a decorative display. It usually ends up as a disturbingly spacious mangle of distorted meat, unwanted decorations and fish bones on your plate. Crayfish and other sweet-water habitants are to be avoided because of high food poisoning risk, although this goes for defrosted sea-shrimp as well. Any of these in a sauce or elaborate preparation of some sort should be banned from your sacred plate because of flavour cross contamination.
Once the primary goals are set, you can refer to the step-by-step practical scenario below for a successful buffet raid. Okay, this is plain Machiavellian anarchism but who worries about that when life is so short and other people would do the very same things if you didn’t? A successful buffet is like fighting a war and I have become a soldier too. Everybody else present wants the most expensive, exquisite goodies and a lot of it too. Simply because they can’t afford them and are often fooled by decorations and presumed quality. Read on and find out how to get what safely pleases your stomach.
Long term preparation.
Good intelligence and well prepared logistics are invaluable and crucial for winning any war. Weddings, inaugurations and religious festivities (other than funerals) are easy because the organisation takes months and gives you ample time to scout the likely guests and gather intelligence about the habits, specialities and brand quality of the caterer. Scouting the future guests can be limited to register their feeding and drinking habits, favourite food items and personal buffet plundering strategies. Know thy enemy. The latter is also useful for future short notice invitations like funerals, surprise parties and accidental or circumstantial attendances.
An unauthorized party bashing mission by the same caterer can be extremely useful and the calculated risk of being thrown out by a champagne-soaked groom (he is a newbie FUBAR for life and realizes it today) or pissed off bride’s father (he pays for the buffet) is a fair price for the obtained information. After all, bravely suffered injuries can be a soothing remembrance at the time of relishing your success later on.
Obvious preparations like starving for three days, buying a new baggy suit or glutting non-indicated medical digestives are contra productive. It can alarm previously unaware competitors of your intentions, diminish your required trustful and elegant appearance or leave you sick at home due to an overdose. A good night sleep and a credible amicable pleasant attitude will do.
Make sure you arrive first at the buffet location at all cost, including leaving the actual event before it is finished or don’t attend it at all. Absolutely avoid unnecessary delays and risky behaviour at this early stage of your campaign such as lengthy handshake line ups, long and slowly progressing funeral processions, actual interment in case of large attendance, “How have you been? Long time no see!” encounters, discussing driving instructions or offering a ride, following parking instructions in situ, attract the attention of the buffet facilitator in charge, getting prematurely sauced, organising or performing transport of bulky presents, supporting or guiding less mobile elderly guests, conversations about the loveliness of the bridal dress, past or future happiness of the bride, cloakroom queues.
What you should do instead upon arrival at the buffet venue, is immediately blend in as a legitimate guest by looking around in astonishment at the decorations, exclaiming praise in the vicinity of relevant attendants. This is crucial with regard to the layout of the buffet display if performed discretely not to alert other greedy guests. Memorize a mental map of the desired delicacies and useful cloaking accessories. Even more important is the presence of guest labels on the tables. If your name tag is on a table no way near the one of the festive family members in the first degree you’re in trouble. Replace it immediately with a reasonable corner seat label from a higher priority table, obviously without being noticed by the buffet facilitator. Until the other guests arrive, you can use also your time well by starting obliging conversations with key players such as a strategically well placed buffet lady. Make sure you compliment her on the fabulous table display, even if it is obvious she couldn’t possibly have anything to do with that. A pretty waitress who can supply you with a glass to hold will also come in handy for later favours. Establish a bond by asking for a light or a drink she has to fetch for you.
While waiting for the assault to start you can pass the time establishing your predominant position at your table. Make use of your pretty waitress’ willingness to supply the table with the cheap table wine. Worthless as it may be, compliment her on whatever you see fit for later reference. Silently curse possible competition for not suffering stomach flu today. This is extremely important to get into the right mood of playing your dirty tricks on the crowd. Desensitize yourself. Keep total emotional distance. Focus on means justifying your goals. Observe the other guests to identify weaknesses. Indoctrinate yourself with the firm believe that most people come here for the goodies, like smoked salmon and lobster since they want to prey on the things they can't afford themselves and think they have a field day filling up their plate with these delicacies. Also, the caterer invariably limits the amount of these things because of cost at a rate of one slice of smoked salmon a person, not to mention the absolute lack of more than one lobster for decoration only.
Don’t hesitate to bring up de-appetizing subjects such as the stuffiness of today’s previous venues, uncomfortable chairs or temperature, long queues, smoking by other guests, the tepid wine, anybody looking a bit off, pallid or bloated, the long agonizing death struggle of the deceased, the presumed consequences of the stag party, etc.
Staying alert for serving call should help you to be first at all cost, even if this insults your host. Ignore all directions from the facilitator about table sequence or you will find the salmon smeared with chicken wing dip sauce or chocolate ice cream. Enforce self service when fruitful help from the waitress is not required, when piling your auxiliary plate with oysters or simply taking half the available Salmon slices and the precious like when nobody is looking. Avoid cluttering your plate with useless decorations such as lemon slices, fancily cut radishes, tomatoes, carrots, flowers and fruits unless these are meant to camouflage your generous helpings.
Being served first has the advantage that you can relish your uncontaminated prime food while the rest of the people still obediently queues and looks at you with a pitiful, hungry and impatient face. You can eat your price at ease along with a fresh glass of white wine that is not stale or warm yet. Smirk silently at the agony of the late comers and enjoy while munching ostentatiously in their direction. Make sure to elaborate on the quality of your early helpings, compared to the distasteful leftover mess on your table fellows’ plates. If successful, this will entice them to return to the buffet table and further deplete it from all spoiled delicacies and useless items. The latter will speed up and synchronise the forced replenishment of the buffet table in preparation of your second helpings raid. To speed up this process and have a selective second cut of the first serving portions, send out your kids with the instruction to get more goodies starting at the wrong end of the buffet table to avoid the queue. Nobody will tell kids to back off especially if you tell them to put on an angelic smile and gather as much as they can before someone actually notices. Pre-raid briefing of your kids on this subject may be useful.
Halfway the first helpings and not unrelated to your efforts, the caterer usually will notice he is not getting away with serving half of what was ordered. He will hesitantly agree to bring out the rest of the backup food after being bopped on the head by an empty smoked salmon tray by a guest who is equally fond of smoked salmon but not as smart as you are or hasn’t read this review.
This usually coincides with the crucial moment of finishing your first helping. Everyone is now eating the slushy crap that was left and you can now go for your second plates at ease. Time to mention to the caterer: "Ah! There IS smoked salmon after all!" and immediately take half of it again. Disguise by adding some chicken wings if they look ok. Recover the decorative lobster you hid under the table cloth during your first pass and disguise it by covering it by some lettuce you can accidentally but conveniently drop while returning to your table. Look accusingly at the people at your table and exclaim with surprise that the wine bottle is empty. Call a waitress, preferably the one that has been smiling at you since you insured her loyalty before, look her deep into the eyes while you request another bottle for your dear friends at the table. Make sure you fill up the glass of the lady you want to dance with later on first and thank the waitress for her kindness. Fill up your glass and ask if anyone wants more as well. Mention all the good food, except for the desserts, is finished and thereby make sure they are all running for those right now. This gives you the necessary opportunity and privacy to exhume your lobster and relish the lengthy process of enjoying every edible morsel of this priceless loot.
By the time you read this, it is probably too late, but stay away from the meat. Incapacitating at best and deadly at the worst, these food items have a tendency to be infected by an array of bugs that thrive very well on seafood. If you are prone to gastro-intestinal troubles, the chicken wings will take care of that. You will simply have no guts left tomorrow. Besides usually being part of prepared dishes or served with elaborately spiced sauces the taste doesn’t go well with your delicate sea food collection. The so commonly called "paté" is just a mixture of everything that was left over, and quite well done too. Sure, it looks nice with all the shimmering glazing and even a grape on top to suggest freshness but beginner’s mistakes may cost you dearly. Don't be fooled by the roasted pig with an apple in its mouth. Heaven knows how it died but the apple should give a morbid clue. Imagine a derelict farmer chasing the poor piglet and upon catching it, stuffing an apple or whatever else is available down its throat. In a last act of survival before being thrown on a bonfire, or indeed after, the apple re-appears as currently displayed. The crusty, blackened skin shows a well done fry? Forget it: Worn out tires will roast anything black. Also avoid the enormous undercooked roasted ham from an unfortunate disfigured or otherwise culinary useless pig. It will be cut up by the buffet personnel, or worse by guests, into a disagreeable mess. While digesting with contentment, observe the people who, after finding out all the Salmon is gone, turn to meat. You'll be attending their funeral soon and with any luck that means another buffet.
Written by Solanum.