My son and I were crestfallen.
I had raised him in the tradition of our people, the Vikings, teaching him the virtues of aimless aggression, hockey, a disinterest in real estate, and, of course, the joys of large piles of meat. Our ancestors did not invade Scotland simply to announce, "We'll take 72 garden salads and split a dessert." This was something Hometown Buffet understood.
It was a place that knew how to throw down a manly feast. Fried chicken. Fried fish. Roast beef. Sausage that may or may not have been someone's pet. Spend an hour here, and you'd have enough fuel to row the North Atlantic, conquering stuff for the next three years. We always left satiated, our chest hairs enriched by 73 percent.
My family had been going to joints like this for years. But recently my wife and daughters -- henceforth known as RACE TRAITORS -- refused to go. The food wasn't very good, they complained, as if this was even an issue. For as aficionados of edible fuel well know, food is best measured in volume.
So maybe Hometown had a tendency to overcook and underflavor. Maybe you imagined its meat buyer standing silent at an auction, waiting till everyone else had bid, then purchasing the remainders in bulk. Maybe you knew the green beans were canned in Olathe, Kansas, in 1962, then fermented like fine whiskey.
What you also knew was that behind the swinging doors, you'd find nobody named Marcel who called himself a chef. His name was Mac. Learned to make feasts in the Navy, so our fighting boys had enough energy to load a TOW missle. Called himself a cook. Proud of it.
Perhaps the RACE TRAITORS didn't appreciate his work, but decent Americans did. The widowers and grandmas would arrive by late afternoon for the senior special. The young families and immigrant clans would follow, speaking languages you couldn't quite place. There would be softball teams and the requisite supply of fat guys. Fabulous had a name. It was called the Hometown Buffet.
But now we stood outside the doors of its shuttered Rocky River temple. Hometown was no more. I wished to weep, but Vikings only cry when decapitated by broadsword. So we stumbled away like beaten mules to CiCi's, a buffet of a lesser God.
I blame the foodies.
Surely you've met these people, with their exterior of warmth and intelligence. They endlessly rhapsodize about fine food as if it were something important, like the Second Coming or a playoff game. But inside lurks an insidiousness as dark as Satan's colon. They're trying to ruin America, one caper rémoulade at a time. The evidence:
1. My daughter turned vegetarian. Needless to say, she will not be invited the next time we invade Iceland.
2. I recently ordered fish at a downtown bar. It was two-by-two inches, served on a really big plate, with some chopped-up weeds splattered around to make it look pretty. Fifteen bucks. At a bar, for chrissakes.
3. Their propaganda arm, the Food Network, spends 24 hours a day bragging up recipes for Parmesan-piqued pommes frites and classic cassoulet in a dastardly plot to kill the pot-pie industry.
Normally, we'd pay such people no heed. This is the land of the free. We already tolerate Andy Dick. What's another irritant? But the foodies hate buffets. They're soooo unbecoming -- unless you call 'em "brunch" and make the cooks wear white jackets and funny hats. So they've declared jihad on buffets in an attempt to soil their good name and make you feel like a degenerate or a congressman for partaking.
Meet Elaine Cicora, Scene's food critic. She was recently feted in New York at the James Beard Awards, which are the foodies' version of the Oscars, only with way less hair product. "The all-you-can-eat buffet is one of the most egregious examples available of Americans' obsession with over-consumption," she says, "a messy, boorish chow-down where quantity counts for everything, and quality counts for nothing. Certainly, it sets the whole idea of culinary artistry back to the Stone Age."
But what she's really trying to say is "I hate old people and can't stand to see the joy a child gets from a plate of chicken, bacon bits, and Jell-O."
Because that's what this is really about, isn't it? The foodies want to turn this country into France or Westlake, where we all sit around yammering about crème brûlée. But to do so, they must starve off the elderly, the immigrants, the families, and the fat guys. So they whacked the Hometown.
"It's unfortunate," says Kory Koran, Rocky River's director of economic and community development, "because I know a lot of the seniors utilized the restaurant."
But this war isn't over. The foodies may have taken out a weak flank in Rocky River. But we've established an impenetrable beachhead in the citadel of decency: Parma.
Out on Snow Road sits another Hometown. On a weekday afternoon, the place is pleasantly stocked with grandmas, guys from the 7-3 shift, and the Otterbein baseball team. Placards featuring delectable meat scenes hang from the drop ceiling. Soothing '80s hits, heavy on the Kenny G sax, play over counters brimming with fried meat and noodles. The Parmanians know that when this feast is done, they will feel no hunger for 36 days. And there's not a damn thing the foodies can do about it.
For as William Wallace once said, "They may take our lives, but they will never take Parma!"