Last night, I was at Harrah's Marina casino in Atlantic City. More specifically, their Waterfront Buffet. Harrah's buffet is a step up from most other buffets in Atlantic City casinos, with different stations featuring a mini-bounty of meat and vegetable dishes alongside many offerings from different international cuisines. Of course, it is all capped with a diabetic-inducing spread of rich and tempting desserts and the encouragement to sample two or three. It pales in comparison to its Las Vegas counterparts but, considering Atlantic City is a ninety minute drive from my front door, I can't complain.
Last night, after finishing the salad, sushi and Asian noodles from trip number one to the buffet, I was ready for the conglomerate of food I would soon call "my main course". I grabbed a dishwasher-fresh plate from the stack and went to peruse the evening's fare. As a vegetarian, my choices are somewhat limited in the meat-heavy provisions, but I can always find more than enough to fill my platter and satisfy my appetite. As with most buffets, enormous crab legs and other shellfish are quite popular and are presented as such. While I do eat fish, I also keep kosher, so crab and its shell-encased buddies are off my list. Cod and tuna are cool and Harrah's salmon, open-grilled before your eyes, is pretty tasty.
As I approached the Italian section of the buffet, laden with antipasto, Sicilian style pizza and a sausage-and-peppers mixture, I saw a tray labeled "Basa Oreganto". Beneath the folded cardboard sign were neat little lumps of white, ribbed, plump ovals — each dusted with tiny, green flecks and dripping with translucent melted butter. I stared at the dish, puzzled by its appearance. I examined the identifying sign again. I don't speak any foreign language (except a few words in Spanish and "Excuse me, where is Danny?" in Hebrew), but I concluded, by the green substance on the food and the familiarity of the words, that oreganto meant it has oregano in it. But, basa was not recognizable to me. I spotted a worker in the preparation area behind the buffet itself. He was unwrapping something or chopping something or checking some warming equipment — something food-preparation related. I cleared my throat to get his attention and motioned him over to me.
"Hi," I began, "could you tell me what is basa oreganto, please?" "Eh?," was his response. I gestured toward the food in question. "Over there," I again explained, "the dish that says basa oreganto..." He cut me off mid-sentence. "Pasta? You want pasta?," he asked and he looked past the basa oreganto toward the cooked-to-order pasta section. "No, basa," I said, slightly raising my voice above the ambient noise, "What is it?" "Pasta?," he repeated, his gaze at me turning to disbelief, "You know...like spaghetti." I felt myself involuntarily roll my eyes. (For Christ's sake, I thought, I know what fucking pasta is! Does this guy really think I couldn't identify spaghetti?) "No, come here", I said, as I guided him to the object of my inquiry. "This!", I announced, as I pointed directly at the green-speckled food. "Oh, it's fish," he finally answered. "Okay. Thank you.," I said. Unsure of basa's kosher status, I walked away without taking a piece. A woman holding a plate at chin-level, sparsely arranged with a small clump of mashed potatoes and a single thin slice of roast beef, stood nearby. With her face screwed-up in a perplexed knot, she interrogated me. "What is it?" she whined, drawing each word out into too many syllables. "Fish," I answered as I scooted past her. "Oooooooh," she yodeled, "I thought it was cauliflower."
Who gives a fuck what you thought it was. Where's the fucking ice cream?