Q: You know what the cause of obesity in America is?
A: The buffet at the Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Let me back up.
The Boss needed to go to a jobsite in Gulfport, Mississippi this morning. We took off at nine a.m., and got there at ten. Since the helicopter could stay on location but not the pilot (unless I wanted to stay in the ship - which I did not), I was assigned a pickup truck and given directions to a company-owned gulfront condo in a new high-rise that has been built post-Katrina. (Believe it or not, two years after that devastating hurricane, much of the Mississippi gulf coast is still flat and devoid of *any* structures. It's really rather bizarre, as if people are afraid to rebuild.)
The Boss says that we'll be leaving around four in the afternoon. He also mentions that the remodeled and reopened Beau Rivage casino is just up the road from the condo, and suggests I go there for lunch - on the company, of course - since they have a "pretty good" buffet. In my head I'm thinking, "Hmm, Burger King/KFC/fast food or a sumptuous lunch at the Beau Rivage? Ah, decisions, decisions..." Even a simpleton such as I could figure that one out.
The Beau Rivage is Mississippi's version of Las Vegas at its worst. It is ostentatiously ornate and frilly. To call it tacky and gaudy would be a horrible understatement. "The Beau" takes tackiness and gaudiness to a whole 'nother level. It must be what casino designers think we Americans perceive as "high class." To me, it looks like a Hollywood set: Faux luxury. A false-front, like the fake town in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" movie. But hey- there is never a shortage of customers at such places, so who am I to criticize? It works, I guess. Sadly.
I wish I had brought my camera. Seriously. What an oversight. There are male staffers running around, dressed stylishly in maroon blazers and t-shirts. Very Miami-Vice (or Ed Norton, if you're from that generation). Only one problem: Such a look would "work" on a slim, twenty-something male. But the only guys I saw wearing that uniform were majorly overweight and about my age. They looked awful. Man, I was laughing. Hooo, I wish I'd brought the camera! Next time, I promise you.
But oh Lordy, the buffet is astounding. (Right-click on the link and select "Open In New Window" for a picture of just one little section of the buffet area.) It is unreal. Their motto is "All-you-can-eat, taken to a higher level." What?! What higher level is there than "all you can eat?" Talk about gluttony!
The price may seem steep at $12.83 but let me tell you, it is worth every penny. You pick up a huge, square plate and fill it with as much as you dare, as many times as you like. If you can imagine it, the Beau Rivage serves it.
I sampled as much as I could - tiny portions of: barbecue sausage, alligator etouffe, seafood gumbo, broiled tilapia, broiled chicken, roasted potatoes and some green bean vegetable thing. I (somehow) bypassed the steaks and turkeys and hams and pizzas and...the mind reels. I was getting dizzy looking at all that food. It was awesome. The dessert array was unbelievable. If you haven't been to one of these places, the sheer size of it is simply incredible. It's almost shameful in its excess.
As for the food itself...now, let's be honest, it was a buffet, not a gourmet restaurant. Still, the food was actually pretty good - at least as good as some "regular" restaurants at which I've eaten. But remember, I am not a food critic, I just love to eat. I have to say though, that the etouffe and gumbo were really good - spicy like I used to get offshore from the real Cajun cooks. Seriously, the gumbo would've passed muster with the roustabouts on a drilling rig. My forehead was sweating and I was sniffling like crazy. And I hadn't seasoned the food at all. Not bad! (And they serve this stuff to Mr. and Mrs. Middle America?? Wow.) The other dishes were done well too.
It was all washed down with copious quantities of sweet tea. Here in the south, we drink ice tea year-round. They give it to you in a huge tumbler, then keep coming around and refilling it.
Okay, so I overdid it. I got my money's worth. I gorged myself. And yes, I feel terrible and guilty. To make up for it, I had no supper tonight. I may not eat at all tomorrow, either.
Buffets are all about the best and the worst of America. They are a symbol of our affluence and prosperity as a nation. We have so much food in this country that we can afford to waste it. You don't want this crap? We'll throw it out! Mind you, the all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurant is a uniquely American invention, dating back to...you guessed it...Las Vegas in the mid-1940's. We love them. Many Americans look at that all-you-can-eat thing as a challenge. "Oh yeah? We'll see about that!"
I'm not quite that bad. But I will admit that such an enormous selection of dishes is just too tempting, even for me. I'll tell you one thing though - if I keep eating like I did today we're gonna need a bigger helicopter. And soon!