Ben, a loyal MR reader, asks:
What is the preferable type of food to eat when it is produced en masse? I.e., for what type of food does the quality not diminish significantly when it's produced for a buffet? How much worse is Panda Express from "real" Chinese food vs. Fast Food Mexican from "real" Mexican?
Indian food, produced en masse, sits relatively well, especially the non-meat dishes and the ground meats. It can sit and stew for a long time. Chinese food, which usually should be cooked at high heat and served immediately, wares about the worst. Barbecue can do fine, if it is cooked properly to begin with (not usually the case, however). At Chipotle the carnitas are pretty good and they are cooked sous vide at a distance and then reheated in the restaurant. But the top prize goes to Korean vegetable dishes, many of which are fermented and pickled in the first place. Natasha and I catered our wedding party with Korean vegetables (and a bit more, including some cold meats) with no loss of culinary value.