Buffet o’ Life: The Commandments of the Broccoli


One of my favorite quotations in life is by an author unknown to me and yet it has helped to guide me with its simplicity. It is this: “At the great breakfast buffet of life, most of us prefer to waffle.” A slice of wisdom that inspires me every time I read it. It reminds me of one of the happy memories with my step-father when we made our trek to consume the buffet of Little America in Cheyenne, Wyoming every Sunday. The excruciating pain of dressing up and dealing with ridicule was soothed with a balm of syrup on my cinnamon french toast. It reminds me, almost daily, that I don’t want to be the waffle. I want to be the bacon, before slaughter, running around squealing with abandon.  I don’t want to waffle.

For whatever reason I gravitate towards the word buffet.  It’s pregnant with choice, with possibility and, as a verb, a word that tells of making one’s way under difficult circumstances. One powerful small term that sends a thousand images through my head. I like to play with it. Buffffaaaay. I like to do the Mr. Furley-ism of Three’s Company fame to it: Buff-ETTE.  I seem to find great analogies to life by thinking of it – you’re welcome to dine on my latest:

I’m standing in line at a most phenomenal buffet. I’m not talking about the Chuck-O-Rama-$4.99-Buff-ETTE with discounts for the elderly, the smell of age in every corner booth. I’m talking about Bellagio’s famous Picasso buffet in Las Vegas governed by the Best-Southwest Chef Serrano. I’m speaking of crisp burgundy linens, gleaming silver cutlery, crystal flutes filled with sparkling Perrier, stiff white napkins at your table in the shape of a bird. This buffet is equivalent to a 4-star restaurant, where you get to pick and choose, but with one glaring distinction. In this exquisite smorgasbord we are all, each one of us, a heaping plate of fare.

My own dainty china is piled high with the tenderest chunks of roast beef, basted for six to seven hours in a simmer of fine Pinot Noir. Nestled next to this beast are the lightest whipped potatoes with a hint of garlic, real butter dripping down their fluffy sides. Sauteed to a perfect texture, not too crisp, not too tender, yellow squash and vibrant green zucchini color my plate with hints of red diced pepper, julienned carrots, and a few translucent onions. A slice of cherry cobbler completes the circle, just enough space between the meat and vegetables so as not to mix the palette. The tartest cherries combined with a hardened brown sugar top and a sweetened glaze that oozes in and around where it will. One lone piece of broccoli stands in the middle, as out of place as a juniper tree on a vast empty plain. I’m more than satisfied with this entree, this side, this dessert. Yes, I have the broccoli with it’s bitter stub.

We all have our broccoli. As a child I tried to explain to my step-father why I didn’t finish my dinner, the broccoli attempting to grow roots into the Chinette always stood untouched on the clean plate surrounding it. I didn’t like it. An understatement. I loathed it. It made my mouth water in an unpleasant way and caused me to dry heave. His stern expression and voice were adamant, “You’re not leaving this table until you’ve finished your broccoli! There are starving children in Ethiopia.” A lone tear would grace my cheek (it tasted better than the broccoli), and I would whisper, “Can’t we send this broccoli to them?” Never loud enough to be heard. The result of a statement like that would have had dire consequences even though it made sense to my eight year old self.

Now you’ve glimpsed the feast of me. Perhaps you’ve nibbled, maybe so much as devoured the contents of the diet I offer at one time or another. You understand that I do have the broccoli that rears its rugged head but we all have our own broccoli. Maybe for you it isn’t even broccoli. Maybe it’s mushrooms. Perhaps artichokes… spinach… chicken. Hopefully in this life you accept your own disagreeable dish that adorns you. Hopefully you work with it, you try to whittle it down. Early on, through friendship, with family, in relationships, we all sample from each other’s platters. I have folks in my life whose palette is so divine that I can barely glean the tiniest morsel of the green pungent floret. With others you’ll find me with a fork foraging through mounds and mounds of dense foliage looking for even a niblet of sweet corn. I know it’s there and my tenacity will allow me to find it but it’s a difficult journey with the tines.

I think that’s the point, in this great buffet ‘o life, to simply realize that everyone has that sweet morsel but all portions are of varying size and taste. Some too salty, some too sweet, some too hot, some too cold, some just right. I imagine that I am like Goldilocks just looking for the right porridge. I need only to search. More importantly I will remember how to conduct myself at the buffet. I will set down for myself a sort of *Commandments of the Broccoli*:

The Commandments of the Broccoli:

I.  Everyone has broccoli.

II.  I can’t simply remove someone else’s broccoli from their plate. That is their choice, their plate, their broccoli. I will not violate their choice, their plate, or their broccoli.

III.  If I’ve picked up another’s plate I do have the choice to push that broccoli to the far right side of said plate. I can push it to the far left if I want. If I’m feeling overly energetic I can even bury it under the mashers and section it off with four slivers of the julienned carrots. I’ve swiftly and deftly hidden it. I’m a crafty, most brilliant connoisseur. I know it’s still there, you know it’s still there. I’m not gonna touch it. I accept it, as an inherent part of you. Rather than focus on it I will enjoy every other sweet bite that engages the tiniest of my taste buds. I will savor the entrees I like best. Maybe you save them for last, maybe you eat them first, your personality will dictate that.

IV.  I will not throw the plate. Even if I don’t break it I will most assuredly chip it, perhaps give it the tiniest hairline fracture. If I can’t handle the broccoli I will set the plate down gently and move on further down the line. However, I will also need to remember that the next plate will also contain broccoli.

V.  I will search for the niblet of corn on every plate. I know it’s there. I will search until I find it. I will not consume the broccoli but rather I will find the corn. In my life I will not focus on the broccoli because I will then miss out on the roasted turkey breast, the lasagna, the crisp bacon of the BLT, the gravy, the tiny, little kernel of corn.

It’s not unlike a search for the Holy Grail to find a platter without the vile vegetable. I may as well start chiseling these commandments onto a granite slate with a toothpick. It shall be a far easier task.

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