The brisk fall evening has me yearning for hot soup and warm bread. I arrive at my favorite destination for such comfort foods, The Soup Plantation. I love to people watch at buffets; euphoria is in the air with so many delicious choices and no limits besides self-imposed ones.
It's a busy dinner crowd. Adults are giddy at the bread station (myself included) with three kinds of cheese breads, baked potatoes, muffins and more. I remember this is where I watched the Bathroom Sneak last year and wonder if he's been back since. The children here provide a stark contrast to their indulgent parents. Most look out windows or twirl in their chairs, eating a bite now and then. They've not yet courted a love affair with food, like we have.
My full plate and I take a two-seater table along the edge of the main dining area. Tables for four occupy the center of the room. Parents, a young boy and a grandfather dine immediately to my left. The boy and his mother sit with their backs to me, across from the dad and grandfather. A bright red Superman cape covers the boy's back and I wonder if he's had a Halloween costume day at school.
The little boy chatters to his family constantly. His mother taps his plate and he takes intermittent bites of food. About 15 minutes into my meal, I hear stronger urging from his mother:
Mom: Brandon, eat the broccoli now. You have to finish just these few pieces. It's very good for you.
Boy: Yuck! I don't like that. I don't want to.
Mom: Stop it. Dip it in the ranch dressing and it will taste better. No desert until it's gone.
Boy: (shakes his head vigorously back and forth) I DON'T LIKE IT. It tastes like trees.
Dad: What do you mean it tastes like trees? Have you ever eaten a tree?
Mom: It looks like a little tree, but it tastes good. C'mon Brandon, no more fussing. Eat it.
Moments later, the parents return to the buffet. The boy looks at his grandfather, who is deep into his salad. The boy looks toward the buffet and then down at his plate. He swings his legs a few times. His hand quickly snatches a broccoli floret and gingerly drops it under the table. He looks again at his grandfather, still busy eating. The boy's hand returns to his plate. Several broccoli florets lob under his table, bouncing on the floor.
The parents return with soft serve ice cream and some fruit. The mother looks at her son's plate:
Mom: Good job honey! Dad, you must have the magic touch.
The grandfather smiles to himself. The boy's mother returns to the buffet for her son's ice cream and the family enjoys desert together. As they prepare to leave, the boy darts away from the table and his mom follows him. The dad collects the coats and walks away as the grandfather rises. He opens his wallet and leaves a tip. The older man stretches his back, puts on his jacket then bends under the table and picks up the broccoli.