I’m not sure how much normal people eat at a buffet,  but generally all-you-can-eat dining is a near-death experience for me. 

To some a buffet means variety,  to me it’s a challenge — it’s a delicious test of my gluttony. 

A buffet doesn’t always have great food. It doesn’t have to. The draw is variety. It’s easier to slap together a panel of mediocre meats and starches to feed masses,  than it is to craft a beautiful entree individually for 500 people.A buffet is the ADD version of a meal. 

“That chicken doesn’t look very goo.... hey,  look! Meatloaf! Is that kielbasa?!? Oh my,  pudding!”

Going to a buffet takes a daylong plan. There’s a strategy to it. It is important to eat something to sustain yourself through the day,  and if you don’t,  then you’re going to shovel your first plate of buffet food into your mouth before getting to plate two,  let alone plate six or seven.

A buffet isn’t a meal,  it’s an event. A good buffet is life-changing if done right,  one evening can change your pant’s size. It can lead to midyear resolutions and bursting buttons.The drive to a buffet is a joyous moment of anticipation. 

The drive home is a self-loathing,  depressing trek that halfway through becomes a race to the bathroom.

Sunday I was with Jami,  her mother,  brother and grandfather at National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville. We went to view the lights,  but made a side trip at the restaurant to pack on about 5, 000 calories.The Lady of the Snows is a Catholic shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary,  and I’m assuming that the restaurant helps raise funds to keep the shrine open,  and the lights twinkling each year.

I am not Catholic,  but by the time I was done with my meal,  I was praying to the patron saint of,  “Seriously what’s wrong with you? That isn’t normal.” 

This particular buffet featured a pasta bar. A great idea to keep food costs down. Pasta is relatively cheap,  and it is very filling. That didn’t stop me though.I had a plate loaded up with linguine,  red sauce,  Italian sausage and a slew of vegetables. There may have been a few small woodland creatures in there. 

All I know is that this was a heavy serving.But that wasn’t enough for me. I had several bites of the pasta,  just to make sure I didn’t miss out on the other food.Mid-gorge,  I went and made a plate of roast beef,  smoked sausage,  kraut,  fried chicken and noodles. There I was with two heaping plates in front of me. That still wasn’t enough. My wife had pasta with white sauce. 

Of course,  I had to try that because it was a different color than my pasta.Jami ate her food,  until she was fulfilled like a normal human being should,  so I snatched her plate to take a few sample chomps.

There I was in — not one of my finest moments — with three plates overflowing with food as I stabbed blindly at sausage,  chicken,  noodles and gravy-covered beef.I was being judged,  not only by my wife,  but by fellow diners as they walked by,  and probably the waiter who sees binge eating daily.

As others filled their bellies with warm soup and bites of corn,  I filled the void of where my self-respect was with bread pudding and brownies.As I reflect on my display of gluttony Sunday,  I do have a sense of accomplishment. 

Maybe it wasn’t so bad. I drank a diet soda with my meal,  and I did have a salad to start my meal,  so I stuck with my diet — more or less.