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Welcome to the "Grand Buffet"

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By Nancy Kennedy

For the past several years on Thanksgiving and Christmas, my husband and I have gone to an out of the way place here in Florida for their Grand Holiday Buffet — and they ain’t lying.
That’s one honking spread they put on.
Here’s just a fraction of this year’s Christmas menu: roasted pears with herb goat cheese, roasted sweet potato soup with duck cracklings, grilled zucchini with tamarind balsamic reduction, peel-and-eat shrimp with cocktail sauce, made-to-order waffles and omelets, slow-roasted prime rib with Au Jus, roast pork loin with black cherry glaze, traditional sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, Yukon Gold garlic mashed potatoes, Bananas Foster, orange creamsicle cake, pecan pie — and I can’t forget the charcuterie station with cheeses and nuts, fresh fruit, liver pâtés, antipasto meats and assorted breads and butter.
Plus, bottomless glasses of champagne.
Weeks before we go we print out the menu and read it out loud, oohing and ahhing and sighing. Drooling and moaning may or may not have taken place on occasion.
We look forward to these meals with eager anticipation.
However, I must confess that my eagerness is mixed with angst. It seems that although outwardly my stomach may be big and flabby, when it comes to my actual stomach, “all you can eat” for me is “not much.” I fill up easily and fast.
So every year I strategize over how to approach this annual eating event of Olympic Games scope, such as studying the training tips of championship-winning competitive eaters like Joey Chestnut who can scarf down 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
I’ve tried drinking a gallon of water the day before, hoping to stretch my stomach a bit so I can fit in more food, but so far that hasn’t helped.
I’ve tried wearing loose pants, not eating anything after bedtime the night before, pacing myself as I eat, yet I still can’t eat as much as I want. I’ve even toyed with the idea of bringing a plastic-lined tote bag with me and stuffing it with shrimp scampi and red velvet cake, but that’s just wrong. Besides, I haven’t figured out how to do it without getting caught.
It doesn’t seem fair. As I carefully fill my plate with teeny taste-size portions of yummy deliciousness, I watch in envy as everyone around me piles their plates with mountain-size servings, eats it all and then goes back for more.
That’s what I want! All I want is more.
More baby artichokes, more green beans almandine. More bread pudding with bourbon sauce, more linguini, more pie.
Alas, it’s not to be.
(One year I did try to go beyond my limit. Let’s just say I overflowed. On my shoes.)
Recently, I was thinking about our annual buffet pilgrimages and how bountiful and beautiful they always are. I thought about how full I always feel and my intense longing to be able to contain more — and what that really meant. I mean other than the obvious triviality, misguided pettiness and sinful gluttony.
I remembered what the psalmist wrote: “O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).
Another translation says it like this: “Oh, put God to the test and see how kind he is! See for yourself the way his mercies shower down on all who trust in him.”
At the buffet, my husband especially likes the seafood salad and I like the smoked salmon that’s always served whenever we go, and throughout the year we remember how good they taste and how we can’t wait to taste them again.
Someone once said that all of life illustrates biblical truth, and the truth is that, just as I’ve tasted roast turkey with giblet gravy and spirited cranberry orange sauce and delighted in its goodness, I’ve also tasted the goodness of God and the sweetness of his mercy and grace.
He has been kind to me, patient with my foolishness, faithful despite my unfaithfulness, loving me consistently in all of my unloveliness.
God has graciously set a table before me (and you, too), that we may feast, not on seafood salad and smoked salmon, as good as that may be, but on himself, never being full because there’s always room for more of him, yet always being satisfied.
Being satisfied — that’s all anyone wants anyway. Maybe I’ve just been seeking it at the wrong table.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.