“Good morning, miss. One for ze buffet?”
The maître d' smiled politely as he stepped forward to lead me into the small, richly appointed dining area. Dark wood paneling, soft brown leather chairs, white linen table cloths and napkins flowering out of water goblets – this was not going to be like breakfast at Bob Evans back in Indiana.
I was in New York City for a gathering of fellow congregational consultants who work for the Episcopal Church Foundation. ECF chose this hotel, located just off Second Avenue, less than a block from the Foundation’s headquarters. It was also just a short walk to the United Nations. A sign in the lobby welcomed international clientele, offering assistance in several languages.
The maître d' seated me at a two-place table in the center of the room, facing the long buffet table about thirty feet away. Delighted with the location, I surveyed my surroundings to absorb every detail of what promised to be a dining experience.
I wondered about the nationality of the maître d'. His dark skin, hair and eyes had me guessing Indian, but that accent seemed French. As I was musing over this, my waiter appeared and presented me with a new native mystery.
“Welcome to the Tudor Room. I am Ramon. May I bring you fresh orange juice and coffee?”
His words were soft, as if no hard consonants existed. When I said I would like both juice and coffee, he said, “Certainly, madam” as if he had just taken the order from the queen.
Ramon returned to my table with tall glass of pulpy juice and a silver coffee server. As he poured the steaming dark brew, he explained I could enjoy the buffet any time I was ready, but if I would like to order something special, he would be pleased to bring me a menu. He smiled politely but served with distant efficiency. Had he been trained as a butler in his native… his native what? I could not tell, and decided to focus on that lovely buffet.
“Buffet” was hardly adequate. It was an international smorgasbord – fifteen feet packed full of offerings to please guests from every continent.
My eyes were drawn to a large silver tray with all things bread. Hard, crusty rolls were mounded next to neat rows of jelly and cheese Danish, bordered by fruit breads, bagels, muffins and scones. I briefly considered the fiber value of a bran muffin before I headed the tongs for a rich cheese Danish.
In European fashion, an amazing variety of cheeses were presented along with smoked meats and sausages. Slices of seaweed-wrapped sushi were nestled next to bowls of berries and other fresh fruit, followed by yogurt, muesli, granola and boxes of American cereals. America was further represented with cheesy eggs, salsa, hash brown potatoes and grits. And of course there were lox with pickled capers, cream cheese and red onion. Maybe I should have chosen a poppy-seed encrusted bagel…
I stayed with the sugary Danish glistening on my plate, pairing it with fruit, for good health. Then I added sausage and eggs and, what the heck, lox and sushi in the name of global appreciation.
Seated again with Ramon circling to refill juice and coffee, I looked at my plate and said a prayer of gratitude. What an amazing variety I was about to enjoy.
In my quiet pause, suddenly I became aware of the voices surrounding me in the now full dining room. Some languages and accents I recognized, such as German, French and British. I was less certain about others, but was mesmerized in listening and guessing.
A young family seated close to me sounded a bit like Dutch exchange students I had known. An older couple who looked dressed for a day of site-seeing sounded eastern European. Were they Polish? A group of men with olive-brown skin engaged in serious debate. One held up a newspaper. It appeared printed in Arabic, seeming to match their language. I wondered from what Asian country the table full of laughing college-age diners hailed. They looked Japanese, and they did have plenty of sushi on their plates.
It was a glorious chorus of international voices! Again I was filled with gratitude. What a blessing to be given a smorgasbord experience of mankind, reflecting our amazing God and His diverse creation.
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