Anthropology is the study of human societies and cultures. All too often when Americans think of anthropology the most commonly conjured mental images are those of doctors and PhD students who travel to the forests of South America and Africa to study overly specific groups of indigenous peoples. There is a move in anthropology to turn their studies closer to home. Francis Q. Quindall seeks to accomplish just that. A PhD candidate from the University of Phoenix, he has chosen to travel the United States to better understand what he calls, “Buffet People.”
“Buffet People serve an important purpose in human society. The better we understand Buffet People the better we understand the human experience.” Since passing his comprehensive examinations, Quindall has spent the last ten years eating exclusively at buffets to understand the complicated patterns of Buffet People. According to Quindall, he met Megan Chasser from Duke University in Durham, NC at the China Buffet on Mayfair Street. She is a fifth-year senior studying Quantum Physics, and considers herself a Buffet Person. “It started when I gained my freshman fifteen. I asked myself, why stop there? People are expected to gain weight their first year of college.”
Chasser has exclusively eaten at buffets since she entered the dorm as an eighteen-year-old. “Even when I go home, I say, ‘Sorry Mom, but I am eating out to Ponderosa for dinner. You can join me if you want.’” She further explains that buffets take on lives of their own, thus supporting animistic theory that supernatural powers can originate from anywhere in the universe, such as a leaf, a rock, or even a self-serve Belgian waffle-maker.
Quindall ran into Marge McDougal at a CiCi’s Pizza in Davenport, Florida. She, like Chasser self-identifies as a Buffet Person. McDougal, a seventy-seven-year-old frequents the eatery five times a week. He quickly identified the old woman as a Buffet Person when he noticed that she had brought a seven-inch bowie knife to the diner. “Buffet knives just don’t cut it,” spouted McDougal as she sharpened her blade on a whetstone. “I’ve been to every buffet joint in town, and all their knives didn’t make the cut.” After laughing ferociously at her own joke, McDougal demonstrated why she required such a sharp blade.
“It’s those bitter skins. I need to fillet them all off. They distract me, and interrupt my normal digestive patterns.” McDougal seized a cucumber round and quickly circumcised the bit of vegetable and added the skin to a large pile on a napkin. The long-time patron explained that Cici’s Pizza only charges $5.99 a plate for all-you-can-eat pizza, pasta, salad, and dessert. “That’s why I come here. I come for my cucumbers.” Next to her lay two very large plates of cucumbers and a massive bowl of Thousand Island dressing. “Three or four ladles of dressing will do, just to get through these puppies. Since I never eat lettuce, I require extra dressing.” McDougal had swapped the one ounce salad dressing ladle for the eight ounce pasta sauce ladle, which she had licked clean. “I have better things to do with my life than ladle salad dressing. Everyday I nick the sauce ladles, and everyday they put them back for this little medicine cup. People just don’t understand the value of Thousand Island dressing on cucumbers. They are cheap little bastards, these people here.” Her logic appeared sound to her, just as it would to any rationally impaired individual. Quindall thanked the patron, and parted to grab a salad of his own, only to find that the restaurant had run out of cucumbers.
John E. Joe became a Buffet Person when he learned that he could make money at the Pizza Hut Buffet in Glenville, West Virginia. “No one ever thinks to put liverwurst on pizza, and the management hasn’t kicked me out yet.” Quindall met Joe when the patron catcalled him during his buffet lunch. Joe whispered, “Psst. Howz about a chaw o liverwurst?” The PhD candidate looked around and saw Joe with a knife loaded with a hunk of spreadable liver sausage. “It’s only a quarter. I’ll even spread it on for ya.” On any given day, he could sell about eight pats of liverwurst, which cuts his cost of the buffet nearly by a third. “It’s a great deal. I’m gunna eat it anyways, I might as well sell it too. Now, that’s just good business.” In tune with diffusionist theory, Quindall observed that, in fact, some cultures are more easily spreadable than others.
The Golden Corral is a staple for fine dining among many Buffet People. Quindall observed D’Quon James, a proud Buffet Person from Boise, Idaho. He managed to mount an entire rack of cinnamon rolls on his plate. He showed little concern that icing had dripped onto the tabletop for nearly ten minutes before he commenced to consume the candied confection. “I noticed that you have this entire plate of cinnamon rolls,” noted the anthropologist. James looked up, but before responding Quindall interjected, “It’s fine by me. I am just curious, why? You must really like cinnamon rolls.” According to the PhD candidate, unlike most buffet people, James was sixteen-years-old and showed no signs of obesity. In fact, if anything, he looked underweight. The youth responded, “Mama can’t bake ‘em, baby’s gotta shake em, and I can’t fake em, so I’m just gunna take em.” Perhaps, someday his metabolism will catch up with him, but until then he indicated that he would continue his dessert devouring trend.
Anthropological studies have changed course, and thanks to Quindall’s work academia will have a better understanding of who Buffet People are, what they want, and why they want it. As we look introspectively to better understand what we want as people, we may too better understand this significant part of American society. Quindall plans to graduate with his PhD in 2020, and plans to teach Home Economics at his local high school.