Last week, I made a passing, shoehorned-in mention about how it was Memorial Day.  However, now that the holiday weekend has come and gone, a bigger story has emerged.  As states began their “reopenings,” beaches, parks, and other summer destinations across the country became packed with crowds of people ready to celebrate.  And as the tourist destinations filled up, so did the restaurants.  Many restaurants and bars forwent their orders from state and local governments to stay at half-capacity to cram in as many customers as possible to make up the revenue they’ve lost out on over the past few months.  

The problem here isn’t that people are ignoring social distancing regulations or refusing to wear personal protective equipment, brazen with “rugged American individualism” in the face of a disease that just… doesn’t care about such ideologies.  It isn’t about these businesses endangering the public by ignoring the half-occupancy mandates for the sake of their own avarice.  It isn’t about how lax state and local governments have been in enforcing their own regulations (after all, their cops are too busy doing other things, like killing people),  It isn’t about the gross mental images stirred up by buffet owners boasting that people have been “drooling over” their crab legs.

The real sin being committed here is that people are going to seafood buffets.

Picture the average seafood buffet, if you will.  Steamer trays of frozen Alaskan crab legs that you have to spend half an hour breaking into, just to be rewarded with mere scraps of meat.  Bowls of opaque-ish shrimp cocktail that has been sitting out for who knows how long.  Fillets of some nondescript whitefish swimming in a sauce strong enough to cover up the fact that it probably turned a few days ago. The world’s saddest ears of corn on the cob, yearning for the day someone will pick one of them. Raw oysters teeming with norovirus, probably. Sushi made by a white dude. Pair after pair of plastic tongs, smudged with dozens of sets of greasy fingerprints from all the schmucks whomst came before you.

Why anyone would $30 on this kind of experience is beyond me.  Granted, I’m not the biggest fan of seafood to begin with.  And, sure, any buffet that gets busy enough won’t have food sitting out for that long.  But some things just don’t hold up well on a hot holding table, as they get dried out and overcooked the longer they sit.  Fish is one of them.

People often let the illusion of seafood being a luxury cloud their judgement.  After all, for much of history even lobster was considered peasant food, and it wasn’t until WWII that rich people decided it was a delicacy because it was one of the few things not being rationed.  “Chilean Sea Bass” is a garbage fish that someone decided to market to Americans for its blandness.  The world of ocean meats is full of rebranding campaigns and deception, and diners as a whole have boughten into the notion that seafood (and thus these seafood buffets) is worth the money because everyone else seems to think so too.  

Oh, wait, maybe it really was about all those things in the second paragraph.  South Carolina’s been averaging 200-300 new cases of COVID-19 a day for the past week.  They’re just borrowing from the playbook of the mayor from Jaws and insisting the beaches (and adjacent restaurants) stay open.  

2 thoughts on “Shame on You, Myrtle Beach Seafood Buffet Goers

  1. RJG says:

    Not to detract from any of the other points, but let us consider the following.

    Sometimes I wonder if my time living in New York and taking New York’s public transit has been good for my immune system. Do people in suburban areas ever encounter germs or other stimuli quite like the ones on greasy subway poles?

    Maybe the Myrtle Beach seafood buffet is their subway. And their immune systems are really strong.

    1. Riley Johnson says:

      Maybe, but my understanding is that Myrtle Beach is more of a tourist destination than a place people actually live.

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