So, goodbye and farewell, oh once wondrous midnight buffet. It was such a pleasure to have known you, in all your many forms. Having given me much sustenance in your lifetime, your unheralded demise has now given me food for thought.
You were, of course, once beloved of all cruise ship passengers, and all cruise lines, from Carnival to Cunard and back again, via all stops Costa and CTC. A cruise ship without a midnight buffet was about as unthinkable as a vegetarian piranha shoal.
In your day, you were as vast, colourful and utterly impractical as a Carmen Miranda look a like convention. Laid out with almost superhuman flourish less than two or three hours after a six or seven course dinner, you were prodded, poked and drooled over by the midnight masses in a way that Katie Price or Kim Kardashian could only dream of. A technicolor tsunami, laid atop groaning tables. you looked almost too good to be true.
Now the groaning has stopped and, in some quarters, the moaning has inevitably started. People who never set foot in a buffet line are now bemoaning your demise. One more thing taken away by the bloodless bean counters of the cruise industry; one more economy cut, yadda yadda yadda…
Yes, the midnight buffet was as flamboyant as any French aristocrat in its day. And now, just like so many aristocrats of old, the buffet has climbed into the post 9/11 cost cutting tumbril, and largely disappeared from view from the neck upwards. It is presumably hiding somewhere with the free postcards, bottled water and those little chocolate treats that once graced our bedtime pillows. God knows what they are plotting between them.
But, truth be told, you became superfluous, I’m afraid. Flexible dining times largely did for you. Cruise lines instead started offering tasty little midnight snacks- of varying degrees of quality and taste- in the revenue centres that they knew would still contain a captive audience in the witching hours, such as the casino and late night bars. It’s all much less ostentatious, and yet immensely more practical. A targeted tuck shop on wheels has replaced your garish, garnished largesse. It’s quite emotional, really.
I’ll always remember your serried tiers of tantalising, seductively wobbling jellies, and your bountiful bunches of lush, juicy grapes. Your cold roast beef and asparagus rolls warmed my heart. And no gourmet mini burger can ever truly take the place of your crowned, cherubic, chubby little chicken drumsticks. Yet still, they call it progress. And without the slightest hint of shame or respect for a dying art.
Of course, the sheer waste was phenomenal. As, indeed, were some of the waists of your most dedicated and devoted disciples. Plus ca change….
So, fare thee well, old waistline fattening friend of the erstwhile midnight hours. You left us with a surfeit of memories, and at least as many extra chins. More, in fact, than the entire Beijing telephone directory.
Missing you already.