Whenever someone invites me for a buffet, I get worked up. Not because I don’t like standing in a queue to collect my food and moving around, trying to balance the plate and safeguard it from people around me, all the while being on my toes. In fact, buffet as a concept is to be celebrated as it carries several advantages.
It reduces manpower required to serve, cuts down food wastage and covers many guests in a quicker time.
There is a different reason for my anxiety. Will there be waiters available at the buffet table to serve or will it be unmanned or thinly manned and the guests be free to collect food from different trays and pans? If former is the case, I am relieved but if it is the latter, then my worry starts ticking.
When I stand in the queue, I watch the person moving ahead of me. Many a time, while handling liquid food items like soup, gravy, sambar or rasam, the person after filling his plate with enough servings, carelessly leaves the ladle in the pan which starts sliding, slowly sinks and ultimately disappears like the Titanic. There are many reasons for this buffet-catastrophe to happen. The guest may be in a hurry or by nature lackadaisical, not paying attention to minute details. The implement itself can be a misfit. The ladle should have a hook at the top so that it can be secured in the tray. It should be long enough that it does not sink even if it is left lengthwise or breadth-wise, delicately or carelessly by the user.
If a person from the catering team watches this sinking process, at least he/she can come to our rescue, retrieve the sunk implement and substitute it with a new or washed one. There are times when, even after seeing the sinking ladle, the waiter or waitress may look the other way, tired of salvaging the wrecked tool umpteen times. In such instances, I have dived like a close-in cricket fielder and caught the ladle left by my predecessor before it fully sank but in the bargain spoiled my dresses with stains that cast an aura of an expert chef around me. If none can bail us out and we are shy of diving, we just have to gaze at the liquid pan, take in its sight and aroma and with tears welling up in our eyes, skip and move to the next item.
Once, I saw a caterer fish out scores of ladles from a buffet-pan. Perhaps, many had committed the offence of sinking the ladles and moved on without a corrective action. The waiter mumbled, “This looks like the 1995 Purulia arms drop case. The only difference, it has rained ladles here and not AK-47s.”
I realised the gravy, I mean gravity, of the offence. Don’t you think it will be worthwhile fixing CCTVs in buffet halls to snap the culprits who let slip ladles in the gravy pans?