“I guess this is our secret vice,” I said to my husband over our after-church lunch. “We’d never invite our friends to join us here, would we?” He chuckled and glanced at the not-too-clean couple at the table next to us, then down at his plate piled high with samplings from the bounteous buffet of the Hibachi Grill.
It is possible to eat healthy at Hibachi if you choose carefully. But we don’t always. And it is not the nice array of fruit right out front that draws the clientele of the Hibachi Grill, or even the to-order stirfrys in the back, which give the place its name. It is the price–$4.99 for seniors like us, $5.99 for other adults, $2.99 for kids for all you can eat of a hodgepodge array of vaguely Chinese/Japanese/American foods guaranteed to fill you up.
I, too, succumb to a lot of the greasy stuff when we stop here after church, which, I hasten to say, is not often. It is not often because we keep telling ourselves we will never eat here again. And then, in a weak moment like yesterday, we do. This is not our kind of restaurant! It is shabby and probably not as clean as it should be and it is certainly ideologically incorrect. The Hibachi is one of those all-you-can-eat buffets that are fattening up the country, food at a price you can’t resist, oily crunchy stuff that you can’t resist.
Our weakness for the Hibachi stems from being tired and hungry after church, not wanting to wait to feed our rumbling tummies. Our weakness is that the Hibachi is on the way home. And so, when we have done the India Garden the week before and we don’t have the energy to seek out a classier place, we pull into the Hibachi’s crumbling parking lot and try not to look too closely at our surroundings or speculate too much on the state of the kitchen. And then I lie awake, as I did last night, telling myself I deserve to get fat if I go somewhere like that and eat next to grossly obese people who look homeless.
Ah. You see. There is a class thing going on here. I realize, dining uncomfortably at the Hibachi, that I do not like to put myself in the category of the seniors who need to seek out cheap food, the cash-strapped families for whom the restaurant is obviously a big treat. I want to make it clear somehow that I am not one of them.
Whereas, the invitation might be to admit that I am, indeed, one of them. We share the same hungers, the same weaknesses, the inevitable distance between who we want to be and who we actually are. This common meal, more than the pinch of bread and the sip of grape juice of which I just partook in the spotless sanctuary, reminds me that we are all needy, hungry, weak children of God.