New column in The Rotarian:
Not long ago, I found myself at a strange and wondrous place: the All You Can Eat Buffet. There’s one in nearly every town in America; no doubt you’ve been inside. What the food may lack in quality, it makes up for in quantity. As soon as a tray is emptied, a new load of chicken-fried steak, wontons, or pancakes appears.
It’s like the children’s story Strega Nona, in which an unwise Italian villager named Big Anthony turns on a witch’s magic pasta pot only to find that he can’t turn it off. Soon the town is buried under a mound of spaghetti. When the witch returns, she stops the pot — and makes Big Anthony eat it all. Boy, is he sorry.
At the buffet I kept eating, too, until finally I felt some sympathy for Big Anthony. Yet the pots did have a certain magic; I wondered at the endlessness of the feast. It struck me that we live in an incredible time. As a species, we have been wildly successful, productive beyond our ancestors’ dreams. Generations of the past would have hardly believed the quantities available to us today: the mountains of food, the floods of goods, the torrents of information.