Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Claridge Casino, Atlantic City, circa 2006.

My mom, sister, several cousins and myself headed to Atlantic City for a ladies-only day out of food, shopping, and a little bet on black. Cousin Maria went with us. She had never visited Atlantic City, but heard of it but and was fascinated by what she called one arm bandits (slot machines). More impressive to her though, were the food options: she didn't think so many restaurants could exist in one building. She RARELY dined out because she didn't trust other people cooking her food. But that day, she made an exception.

My mother suggested we head to the buffet for lunch and everyone complied except me because I detested food left in the open. She convinced me that the "trick" was to wait at a station until a "fresh batch ah food come out." I did.

When we first arrived however, Cousin Maria loudly said, “Whattah lottah food at dis buffet!” pronouncing the last word like the surname of Warren Buffet instead of "buf-fay." Raucous laughter ensued, but my Cousin Bailey, the family matriarch, was incensed—and embarrassed. In addition to her mispronunciation, Cousin Maria held up the line by arguing with the attendant who neglected to return her change. Loudly she said, "Don’t try fuh pilfah me money!"

Cousin Bailey quickly ushered her to a seat to diffuse the growing spectacle. When we all finally sat down to eat, Cousin Maria said the attendant neglected to give her "her copper change."

"What? One pennie yuh mi di argue 'bout?" Cousin Bailey said. As she spoke, Cousin Maria, who in short order had managed to pile two plates full of food, started wrapping up all her fried chicken and biscuits in napkins. She quickly pulled out some plastic baggies and stuffed corn on the cob, string beans, and mashed potatoes in each of them. Then, taking furtive glances, she stuffed all the items quickly in her large brown purse and zipped it close. We all stared at her. Aghast.

"What are you doing?" Cousin Bailey asked, disgust lacing her voice.

"I don't want di food fuh run out so I wahn save mine fuh later. Look how much people dey pon line. And dem onli big! Look at dem bellie!" Cousin Maria said pointing. "By de time all ah dem come een, di food wahn done off. De sign mi sey all you can eat but ah 'fraid the manager change him mine and limit we. Dey done teef me monie, but dey nuh wahn teef me outta food"