A Glutton is someone who raids the icebox for a cure for spiritual malnutrition.
(Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004)
The waitresses at Hector’s called him Mr. Ranch Dressing. He would come in for the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet a couple times a week, always alone. He would fill not just one plate, but three on his first trip. Then he would return to the line and fill three soup bowls with ranch dressing, cottage cheese, and ketchup. Everything got dunked in one of the three bowls. He’d grab a chicken leg, dunk it in ranch dressing, take a bite, then plop it in the cottage cheese. Roast beef went into the ketchup, fries in all three. Taking a few bites of each item, he’d work his way through three plates of food. He left half-eaten chicken standing in ketchup, spare ribs resting in cottage cheese, and fried clams sinking in creamy ranch. Then he’d return to the buffet line for more food. After an hour, he’d pay his check and go, leaving behind several plates of food, a big mess, and a small tip. When I think of gluttony, I think of him.
I hadn’t heard of Frederick Buechner back then, and I was too young to see a broken and hurting soul in Mr. Ranch Dressing. I didn’t see his isolation or wonder why he was always alone. Perhaps he took so many plates to fill the other side of his table where no one ever sat. All I saw was a waste of food and the mess I had to clean up. I never saw the starving soul drowning himself in food, seeking holy communion at a lunch buffet.
What if I’d sat down at his table and talked with him for a few minutes, offering real conversation as well as a beverage? What if I’d called him by his name instead of his food habit? Mr. Ranch Dressing’s gluttony was on display for everyone to see, but what about the hardness of heart I revealed every time he was a guest at one of my tables? All you can eat, and no one to dine with – feast and famine at the same table.