Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dig: Chinese Buffets

Are all-you-can-eat buffets just an American thing? If you go to Italy, do they have buffets? How about Canada? Canada is kind of just an extension of the US, anyway - I bet they have them. Buffets seem pretty American - lots of food that's been taken from another culture and with a focus on bigger, not better. But the thing is that there aren't any American buffets out there. I'm not entirely sure what would be in those stailness steel warming dishes at an American buffet actually (hamburgers? hot dogs? PB&J?) but I do know that there are a zillion Chinese buffets in the US and I dig them!

Buffets are pretty much all about quantity over quality. There aren't too many filet mignon buffets around and you don't see many ads in the yellow pages for a place with a name like The Lobster Trough. I'm not bashing Chinese food, but it must be pretty easy to make in volume and have it still be pretty tasty. Not super-fabulous delicious, but tasty. You know, the kind of food that tastes pretty good sober and tastes even better when you're drunk. The kind of food that you can't make at home for the same amount of money and effort.

Seems like most Chinese bufetts have the same dishes. You have three or four chicken dishes that have been pretty American-ized, a couple of pork dishes and maybe a few seafood dishes. Along with those "entrees", there are usually some rangoons, mushrooms, egg rolls and some potatoes of some kind. And, in case you have come to a Chinese buffet under duress, there is some non-Chinese food like ham or meatloaf or something. Throw in a few dessert items (including a soft-serve ice cream machine), a bunch of those stainless steel warming tables, a few booths and the occasional booster seat and you're good to go.

So, back to quantity over quality. Most of the food is good. Not much of it is excellent. When someone asks you about the place to go for the best food, you probably don't direct them to the Golden Dragon. However, if someone is in a hurry and is looking for some good grub without spending a boat-load of money, the old Dragon is the place to be! I'm guessing that the guy manning the Kingdom Chicken warming tray didn't go to culinary school - in China or anyplace else. But that's OK because you don't need no stinking chef for this place, just crank up the General Tsao's chicken machine and bring in the nice people with their money! The stuff is good enough to eat once a week and, for the time you are in their nice establishment, you can pretty well gorge yourself. God bless China, I mean America!

I'm going to tread a little lightly here so as not to offend, but do you have to be Chinese to work at a Chinese buffet? Whenever I go to one, I don't see too many white-bread folks like myself working there. Is there some discrimination going on that I should know about? And what where they doing prior to working at the buffet? See, that's the thing about opening a buffet of American food. America is a melting pot of people, right? So I couldn't very well just hire white people to work there. I'd have to hire a certain percentage of lots of different nationalities. But if the Chinese buffet is located in the US, then aren't those people Americans? I don't know about you, but this converation is making my head hurt and I don't really want to open that whole racism floodgate....

Kind of a short post today - I apologize. The more I wrote, though, the more I realized that there were quite a few things about Chinese buffets that I don't get so perhaps I should have published this under the Don't Get heading. Maybe I'll go load up on some Sesame Chicken and ponder this topic some more. And, if I need to do, I can go back and help myself to some Orange Chicken for some additional ponderin'!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Don't Get: The amount of time dedicated to the weather forecast on the evening news

Do all weather guys have pictures of their respective news anchors with hookers and lines of coke or what?! Are there some out-standing gambling debts or some underwear preferences that we don't know about? How do they get so much air time? Just how long does it take to say that it's going to rain tomorrow? Is there not enough real news to fill the 30 minutes (less 7 minutes or so for commercials which are probably neither effective nor entertaining) that we have to talk ad nauseum about the weather? For crying out loud, Weather-Dude, just tell me if tomorrow is going to suck or not!

OK, I feel a little better, but now allow me to continue. Never mind, I don't need your permission - the nice people at gave ME the sign-on, not you.

There's a lot of crap going on the world every day. Some of it good, a lot of it not so good. A half-hour isn't much time to talk about all that stuff. If Peter Jennings weren't dead, he wouldn't sit idly by while some weather guy is giving a forecast, Pete would talk about all the silliness going on in the Middle East or Washington or New Orleans or someplace. He would talk about the news. And even the local guys (who probably lay awake at night fantasizing about becoming an anchor on the national news: "This is World News Tonight with Joe Blow") certainly could spend 23 minutes talking about news in their little corner of the world. There are enough robberies, murders and cats stuck in trees to go around.

There is a TV station in my world that brags about having the weather earlier in the newscast than the other stations in the area. Is that something to crow about? Is the weather really the most important thing going on in the world? Can I affect the weather? (In case you were wondering, the answer to all of those semi-rhetorical questions is "no"). There are usually a couple of little teasers about upcoming news stories and then they jump right to Junior talking about the weather: "Osama Bin Laden found in Topeka, Kansas - but first the weather". I'm sure that when the anchor cuts to the weather guy and goes off-camera, he immediately rolls his eyes makes that hand gesture of a guy bopping his bologna which, as we all know, is the universal sign for "blah, blah, blah".

OK, so now the weather guy is on. First thing he does is review yesterday's weather for some reason. Not sure why anyone cares about yesterday, but he must think it's important. Next thing he does is talk about some big-ass warm front in frickin' New Mexico or some damn place. He assures me that this matters to me in Michigan because of the affect it will have on a cold front or a high pressure something-or-other or a gulf stream or something. From there, he tells me about the high temperatures in various cities around the country and, if that weren't enough, I get to hear about the LOW temps as well. What more could a boy want?! Certainly, If I'm taking the kids to see the Grand Canyon, I would want to know about the weather in Arizona but isn't that why god made

Finally, after all this dinking around about other people's weather, he zooms in his little map of the US to my neck of the woods (as Willard Scott would say). Often, he'll repeat the same mumbo-jumbo about high-pressure stuff and cold fronts and temperatures in the surrounding 100 miles. And then he'll break out the big guns, the ultimate gizmo for the weatherman - the doppler radar loop! There was probably more than one boner in weatherman school the day they got to play with the radar thing: Look, class, you can run it forwards and backwards! Light blue means a little rain, dark blue means a lot of rain! Those schlubs at the other weatherman schools got nothin' on us! (FYI - Penn State is a big weatherman school.)

After showing off the size of his radar dish (obviously compensating for something), Skippy gets down to business and lets me know that tomorrow will be partly cloudy (is that different than mostly sunny?) and will have a high of 76 and a low of 58. Terrific. That's what I've been waiting for. Now I know that I can wear my Motley Crue t-shirt instead of my Ratt sweatshirt. I don't even need him to be that specifc. I can live with "upper 70's". Is there much difference between 76 and 79 degrees? For that matter, "pretty nice day tomorrow" works for me. I think weathermen should just limit their forecasts to "nice day" and "crappy day". Play back the last conversation you had with someone about the weather. It probably went something like this:

You: "I hear tomorrow is supposed to be pretty nice."
Friend/Co-Worker/Life Partner/Stranger With Whom You Are Making Idle Chitchat: "Yep, that's what the weather guy said"

Please note that you didn't say anything about high-pressure systems or mention barometers or thermometers or richter scales or compare the size of a hailstone to a common spherical object such as a baseball, golf ball, bocce ball or grapefruit. If you get into the size of basketballs, then maybe we can talk, but until then it doesn't really matter.

One last thing. I DO get the weather channel. It is a channel/website completely devoted to the weather. I've marked it as a favorite on both of my computers. All I'm saying is that I'm sure there is a cat in a tree out there who isn't getting the press time he deserves because of a new record high in Death Valley. It's a desert, people! It's gonna get hot! One day, it will be the hottest it has ever been and whether it is 125 or 126 degrees doesn't really matter a lot. It's just frickin' hot (qualifying as a "crappy day")! I hate cats, but Fluffy deserves the air time and I just don't get why he has to get screwed over by the weatherman every night.