All You Can Eat for $10.99! But should you?

Thursday, 26 August 2010 07:46 by The Lunatic

I’ve been back in the USA for two weeks now, and I’m still adjusting to a few things.

For the past year, my family has lived in Switzerland – and the whole time we complained bitterly about the high cost of food there.  Buying groceries to eat at home is expensive enough – but going out to a restaurant?  It’s completely outrageous.

The hot lunch program at our kid’s elementary school is a great example of food prices in Switzerland.  The “normal” school lunch was $10 – or you could get a “small lunch” without side dish or dessert for $7.50 (but it did come with a drink).  The third option was a plain hot dog in a bun for $5.50 (no drink included).

To put this in perspective: if we bought the “small lunch” every day, the cost of school lunch in Switzerland was more than the TUITION we paid every month at the private school we sent the kids to when we lived in Ecuador!

Even fast food is expensive – a combo meal at McDonalds (regular burger, fries, and small drink) is $14. The only “deal” we found was at the Middle Eastern dives which were fairly common throughout the city; you could get a Gyro or a “Duram Kabap” for just under $10. (all the prices were actually in Swiss Francs, of course – but the Franc is just about on par with the US dollar so I’m saying dollars just for comparison to US meals).

So for the past year, we very seldomly ate out at restaurants.

All of the stereotypes you hear about the “precision” of the Swiss are absolutely true.  The drinking glasses they use in bars and restaurants all have measurement lines etched into the side of the glass.  You buy soft drinks, beer, and wine by the deciliter (tenth of a liter).  Beer and soda servings are usually 3 or 5 dl and wine is available in any multiple of 1 dl – and they fill the glass EXACTLY to the line. Not a hair over or under.  Self serve soda, or anything with free refills, is completely unheard of. (and since sugar is not subsidized by the government there, soft drinks typically cost more than beer at most restaurants!)

So it was with much glee that we discovered Tendo – an “All You Can Eat” Asian buffet up the road from our new house the other day.  When I was a kid, a buffet usually meant really bland, overcooked, mushy food – served straight from the institutional #10 sized can.  But the Tendo Asian Buffet is GREAT.  It’s all very fresh, well made food.  There’s an incredible array of Asian delicacies: seafood, pork dishes, beef, chicken, steamed and sautéed vegetables, sushi, dim sum, and a fairly impressive selection of desserts. They even have a raw oyster bar, and a Mongolian BBQ where they cook your selection to order.  And the price? Only $10.99 for adults, $7.99 for the kids.  All you can eat.

Food Orgy!!!!

But as I was plowing through my second plate of food, I couldn’t help but notice that EVERYONE in the restaurant was overweight. The people around me weren’t just a little plump – the young couple at the table next to us (late 20’s at the most) were equally sized and probably had a combined weight of at least 700 pounds. There was a guy in the corner that could give Mr. Creosote from Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life” a run (or waddle) for his money.

I suddenly began to feel a little self conscious about the amount of food I was stuffing into my face. If I ate like that, even once a week, I’m sure I would put on substantial weight.

In Switzerland, I don’t think I ever saw a “local” as big as the average patron in that restaurant.  Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to live in a society where food is expensive and there is no such thing as the dreaded All You Can Eat.

It’s so seductive to know that it’s just right up the street.  My kids are already asking when we can go back. But we have to resist.

Must ...... resist ...... food .....

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