One thing I learned during the last and only time I saw Tessa’s dad Blakey, it was this: a man may have $63 million dollars in the bank, but when push comes to shove, all he really wants is a buffet line. On that frail February in 2001 when I met the old man, he could have had a vat of Beluga caviar flown in on the Concorde, but instead, he chose a Luby’s in suburban Houston. Thus I have surmised that Man’s natural rest state is the all-you-can-eat rack with a sneeze guard and every kind of meat and fixin possible, all drowned in delicious butter sauce.
We used to go to a place called Bishop’s in Cedar Rapids when we were kids, but now I will gladly drive two days to the mountains of Georgia to partake in Salem’s Jasper Family Steakhouse, which I consider the pinnacle of the buffet art form. It is, in all seriousness, better than most catered weddings I’ve attended in Manhattan.
I think the all-you-can-eat buffet line brings up primal qualities in the homo erectus. There is the whiff of Infinite Choice and the reality of Infinite Consumption. Since we are all omnivorous hunters and gatherers by ancestry, a key part of us, deep down, is afraid that we’ll never get to eat again. The Jasper Family Steakhouse takes that fear and says, “no, my child. You shall have anything you want, for as long as you want.” It is the perfect salve for an ancient longing.
Salem, because he’s Salem, was not content just to run the best steakhouse in the South; he was also going to broaden the horizons of the patrons whether they liked it or not. Even though nobody really knows it, the place has an 802.11b/g wifi connection running through its gentle air at all times. And the fireplace and mantle is full of original works by the Reverend Howard Finster and the like, and will soon have a adjective-defying mural created by one of the local artist savants named Billy. Just to rub it in, I’ve called Tessa twice while sitting by the fire, enjoying Brunswick Stew and banana pudding.
Back home, Salem’s stepson McColl had a school project tonight. They drew names out of a hat and create a “puppet” of that historical character. I know it sounds like a clich