Was how my mom reacted on the 1st day of CNY.

***Two Life Lessons Learnt This Festive Season***

Part 1/2.

I arrived back at my hometown, Penang, on the 1st day of CNY because I messed up my tickets (I bought a 6th Jan ticket instead of a 26th Jan ticket).

By sheer luck I managed to get a last minute bus ticket back home, but I had to do so at 10pm CNY eve.

After 5 hours of bumpy ride with a farty dude sitting behind me (got both of us in the front row cringing throughout the journey), I arrived at Butterworth at 5am in the morning - neck hurting like hell.

My poor dad drove all the way from the Island to come collect me. And by the time we reached home we were understandably exhausted.

After some 'nap', I woke up to follow my parents for a lunch @ E&O hotel in Penang, where I learned about the first thing I wanted to talk about today.

"I wanted us to have something nicer this new year", said Mom.

I was prepared for a spread. 

What I saw was this palatial, lavish indulgence where a mediocre term such as 'spread' does extreme injustice.

Right inside the front door was row of desserts I counted no less than a dozen type strong.

Next to it, another row of a dozen Japanese sushi & sashimi varieties, with the condiments and wasabi neatly packed into beautiful shapes. 

Decorating the top of the row was a food carving of a rooster, made with a genius combination of watermelon, apple and carrot.

NEXT to that, a variety of steamed seafood consisting of mussels, shrimp, crabs, and squid - come with a collection of French sauces.

As I made my way through that whole row, I realized that it was in fact, just an island. The structure was huge and there's TWO islands in total on the buffet floor.

There's a row dedicated to Yee Sang condiments. Another for Italian pastas where a dedicated commis stood busy sauteeing & tossing with seasoned pans to serve up freshly made pasta for hungry guests.

Next to that, a row for the local streetfood - ban chang kuih, appam balik, chicken & duck rice. 

They even found a creative way to serve up char siew while being halal by way of using LAMB. Lamb char siew! Isn't that cool?

There was also another row filled with local Asian communal dining dish varieties - fried rice, stir fried kong poh fish, veges and of course a salad and cold cut section with their respective sauces.

Standing on a corner of the hall, a stall for the famous Penang-style ais kacang and cendol. With the standard three-colored ice creams, ramped up to hotel-standards.

And there it was - majestically situated between a noodle stall and a grill that featured salmon steaks, tender as hell lamb chops, and premium sausages - a magnificent iron work the size of a table, crowded by a row of eager guests with empty polished plates, and manned by an imported Indian chef:

...Salmon curry fish head...

There was, in fact, more food than I described (including a totally badass Felix-approved coffee station). 

But as I made my way up and down the whole gallery, my thoughts @_@ with the insane variety - a thought occurred to me:

Countless varieties, unlimited portions, & only one price - but is that really a good thing?

As the lunch service ended, none of the stations were completely empty. In fact, I see about 30-40% food left because the chefs would ask that the stations be refilled before being completely emptied.

Having worked in a hotel before, I understand that on a daily basis a lot of food are discarded after every service to keep with hygiene standards. And the kitchen crew in fact aren't even allowed to take the unfinished food home. 

Food wastage aside, there's that enjoyment aspect. Psychologically, do we really need so much food with so much variety to be happy and contented?

As I glanced around the room, the only ones with a smile on their face are those who are talking to each other - interacting - and not just eating.

I see also people being stuffed to the brim. That point where it became uncomfortable sitting on a chair, and the eyes glazed as the sugar rush was over and that drowsiness starts to sink in, getting people rushing to the coffee machine.

Honestly, the food was great, but only a few stand out. For me, those few were the lamb char siew, roast duck, some of the desserts, and sashimi (because I liked Japanese cuisine). Do I really need all those other varieties? No.

In fact, if I had even tried a spoonful of each of the dishes present, I would have been full before I even finished trying the 'a-little-bit-of-everything' idea that is so popular among our culture.

If I had done that, my level of satisfaction of the meal itself would have been diminished - instead of having more of the things I liked, the enjoyment and tastes I'd gotten from things I DO liked would have been overshadowed by that feeling of discomfort and drowsiness from overeating.

How does one describe, or what are the factors that contributes to a satisfying meal? For me it's:

  1. Who's present, or maybe even just by myself as I get my alone time.
  2. The tastes
  3. Ambience

As I matured over the years, I've come to realized that fullness isn't everything. 

The trade-off simply isn't worth it.

So what use is buffet, really? 

For the same price, can we enjoy a more concentrated experience in a more intimate, quiet, setting where we only order what we are prepared to eat, and lavish instead in the experience of the Three? 

Here are my thoughts. What's yours?

My next post will be part 2/2 where I tell you what happened that caused my mom to be like "NOOOOOOOO!"

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