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Zen and the art of buffet maintenance


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I found myself battling the bulge after being subject to back-to-back buffets on consecutive days. In the days of yore, there would be a total onslaught on the table and its offerings. But aflate, I have tried to sit back and savour at least some of the dishes on offer, instead of stuffing my face into the plate and then tottering to the nearest bed. There are many reasons for this. After a buffet, it would take me awhile to recount what I ate and had to rely, much to my embarrassment, on eye-witness accounts.
Buffets were invented to satiate your deepest cravings for food, but more often than not, they end up confusing you. Firstly, buffets have gotten infinitely more creative these days. If one really wanted to, the meal could be complete just by gorging on the starters and the desserts. Some people even prepare assiduously before they head for a buffet. What constitutes preparing for a buffet? The usual suspects – skipping the previous meal, swimming an extra lap and indulging in gulping down laxatives in order to have a stomach that is rumbling and empty are tried and tested methods. Buffets don’t just turn your circulatory system upside down; they also cause your mind to lose all sense of perspective.
As you enter, you chance upon the starters. All of them look good, so you have to make a split second decision on whether you want to gulp down all, or leave some space for the main course. To heck with it you say, and stuff your plate with everything on offer. On the way back, you set your eyes upon the main course spread. So when you sit down to eat the starters, you are already plotting on which dish to heap on your plate from the main course. Dal Makhni or chicken or pomphret or palak paneer?  Roti or naan? Or kulcha? All while you are still settling into your starters. The paneer dish tastes really good. So your mind veers from stop with starters to when is my next buffet going to be and you give yourself the treat of a second serving of starters. By then, you see the main course, all invitingly spread out. The neighbouring table is helping themselves to some sumptuous biryani, kebabs and bhindi fry. It is time to bid adieu to starters (but you make a mental note of trying to squeeze in a serving of that yummy paneer before you leave).
There is a universal unvoiced fear in most people that go for buffets – the fear being that the food will run out. How many ever times the food is refilled, you think it will run out and you’ll be left with an empty plate and sob story to tell. So now that you’ve settled into the main course, your mind wanders to the desserts. Mousse, ice cream, coffee cake, fudge, rasmalai, strawberry tart all compete for a place in your plate. But wait, you are still on your first round of the main course. And then, the fish fry bowl is empty. You wait anxiously, praying fervently for a refill and you just cannot concentrate on your already over-heaped plate until the fish fry is refilled. Once it is refilled, you get up and serve yourself a generous helping of biryani. But if you must want the fish, it is there.
By now, the neighbouring table has started to heap their plates with dessert. A chill runs through your spine – what if all the desserts are over and you’re left with fruit salad?Sacrilege. You gulp down the remainder of your meal. Just when you want to call it a day with the main course, you waft over to the table and serve yourself some fish. If someone were to even give you a friendly punch, the ensuing sight would be best unmentioned.
Now it’s time for desserts. The hour of reckoning has arrived. So you serve yourself a tart, two mocha cakes, a rasmalai, some ice cream with a generous helping of fudge. After round one, you cut down on the rasmalai and ice cream and heap your plate with that awesome pastry. After much tribulation on whether your stomach can withstand a third serving, common sense prevails and you really call it a day.
But you still aren’t satisfied. Could you have spaced out the first and second serving even better? Could you have squeezed in another serving of that paneer? All these questions haunt you as you leave the table. So to combat this problem, I have resorted to zen to solve all my problems. Here’s how it works.
Before heading for the buffet, sit down and mediate for a few minutes. Imagine yourself in front of a buffet table and think of how you will do justice. Think of savouring each bite. In your mind’s eye, think of taking slow bites and chewing your food well. Think of the dessert table and which dish you will help yourself to first. Use the power of now and live in the moment. Imagine walking around the table and serving yourself only what you need. Now you are all set to do justice to the buffet, without being confused or worried.
Then go to the buffet, forget everything that you’ve practiced, and lose your senses to the food.


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