Start your engines.

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Most of the time, we take things nice and slow down here. A walk around the neighborhood is a languid, lazy saunter; and the express lane at Publix isn’t guaranteed to move quickly because sometimes you just have to catch up with the cashier. For many of us, our leisurely pace is a point of regional pride. It’s a declaration of that highest ideal of savoring time, rather than rushing it along. But there’s one place that our celebration of slow-moving ways takes a back seat to efficiency and speed: The buffet line.

When it comes to the buffet, we are a people who move it along. Whether we’re enjoying a church potluck, dinner at a friend’s house, or the neighborhood meat-and-three, we’ve got the art of the buffet down to a science—and keeping things moving is our top priority. Here’s how to avoid backing up the buffet line (and the cutting stares of the hungry folks standing behind you).

First things first, get a lay of the land before you step in line. Without breathing down the necks of those already waiting (this is very important), assess the scene and take a look at the dishes being offered. It’ll help you cut down on deliberation time as you serve yourself, as you’ll already know to skip the sweet potato soufflé and load up on mac ‘n’ cheese instead.

Second, stay focused on the task at hand. We’re not saying that you should ignore sweet Mrs. Gertie’s game of twenty questions; we’re merely suggesting that your attention to her should not leave you standing over the butterbeans for a longer period of time than necessary. Speak while you scoop.

Third, fix your children’s plates for them, and let them pick and choose what they want to eat back at the table. While I’m all for giving your kids agency and teaching them to voice their opinions, the buffet line is not the place to practice democracy.

But once you’ve settled into your seat to enjoy your vittles, take it slow. There’s no need to rush. This is the South, for goodness’ sake.

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