I refuse to eat food if it requires a sneeze guard

Written by: Kylah Ellison
Buffet-style meals have long been a staple of American society. Who hasn’t been to at least one outdoor barbeque? There’s just something fun about being surrounded by family, friends, and an amazing spread of food across some picnic tables, preferably in the hot summer sun, perhaps with a nice, cool breeze coming off a nearby lake. But now picture this: A seemingly delectable salad bar, containing everything you could ever possibly desire to put atop one’s salad…behind a plastic shield. There is something inherently wrong with buffet restaurants in America. They are merely Petri dishes of disease working hard to satisfy two big American mentalities: Let’s charge them as much as we can for them to stuff their faces, and let’s pay as little as possible to stuff our faces with some mediocre food. There are too many buffet-style restaurants out there to name, but to give examples of a few: Granny’s, The Old Country Buffet (OCB), Zoopas, and Foody Goody. For the purpose of this article, I’ll stick with the subject of the OCB, a well-known name around this area and somewhere most people have been (hopefully once was more than enough.) Now, I’m sure the OCB surely believed that they had a brilliant idea when they decided to take classic meals apart piece by piece and spread them out down the buffet line for us to pick and choose between, but there are quite a few things wrong with this scenario. First off, what is the deal with people trusting food that requires a sneeze/cough guard around it? If it needs a sneeze/cough guard, you probably have much worse things to worry about than other people’s sneezes and coughs. For instance, that food is sitting there from the restaurant’s open time until it gets used up, which could take hours. In other words, what once was gravy is now a gelatinous goo being slopped onto your plate. And because the food is just sitting out all day, these types of restaurants tend to have flies. Not much more to say about that revolting thought. Secondly, who do you think visits these buffets the most? Families with kids, of course. And just how tall are those children? Not very. So those annoying, plastic guards that are stuck up in your face while you try and serve yourself food? They have no helping effect when it comes to a four-foot tall child. They can cough and sneeze all they want and it will never hit that plastic shield. At least, not the outside of it. Thirdly, I prefer my food to only be handled by myself or the person cooking it for me. The way buffets are laid out, anyone has access to it! So back to the idea of those four-foot tall children making their way down the line, here’s a personal experience I’ve had with children at buffets. A few years ago, I was making myself a plate at Granny’s, a buffet-style restaurant much like the OCB, and there was a young kid in front of me, no older than five or six. He started out by reaching in and grabbing things with his fingers rather than tongs. Now it wasn’t quite as bad with the solid foods, but once he hit the sauces and stuck a finger in to lick and check? Disgusting. Who knows where that child’s hands have been? Or the last time they were washed? And if that weren’t bad enough, he would lean over the food trying to read the signs and burp as he went along. How’s that for appetizing? And if you thought it couldn’t get much more disgusting than all of this, you were wrong. The way buffets are laid out, every food has its own tray or container that it occupies along some sort of bar or table. Naturally, as people proceed with filling their plates, spills happen. Soup gets sloshed up and over the rim of its bowl, salad dressings are dripped as they get transferred from their container to a plate, and plenty of other mishaps occur regularly. This is to be expected at a buffet, but what’s worse is how they get cleaned up. Old rags are often used to wipe up these sorts of messes, and although they are supposed to be soaked in bleach water to stay clean, that probably does not kill everything that could possibly be living on them. So now aside from dirty children, coughs, sneezes, flies, old food and messy serving areas, you can have the pleasure of knowing that bacteria-laden rags were used to clean up just inches away from the food you’re now heaping onto your plate. So the next time your family is looking for a good place to eat, I’d strongly encourage you to stay far, far away from places like these.