Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Slate has an occasional series, "We Read The Book, So You Don't Have To." Its latest piece is on the new Jayson Blair book, which apparently has very little content. At the very real risk of this being completely devoid of humor, I have a desperate urge to parody their feature by pointing out the highlights of a Chinese take-out menu that was recently slipped under my door. To be honest, I want to hate Slate's feature because it feels like cheating -- why should you get the rewards without reading the book?? But it saves me from even being curious enough to leaf through the pages in Barnes & Noble, so I can't really be too upset at them.

In any event:

"I Read A Chinese Food Menu, So You Don't Have To"

Panel 1: "Delivery available after 5:00 p.m." What if I want dinner at 4:30? This is just another example of corporate greed.

Panel 3: A long and tedious description of the "Triple Delight in a Nest." Only true Chinese food devotees will need such detail. You can skip this part without much concern, unless you're allergic to shellfish, in which case you may want to pay close attention.

Panel 4: "Doubled friend pork." Someone needs a proofreader. I think they may have rushed to get this menu released to compete with the new Papa John's 2-for-1 special. There's no editor credited on the back panel -- and mistakes like these make it easy to see why.

Panel 6: "Luncheon menu -- served 11:30 am to 3 pm, Mon. to Fri. except holidays." Which holidays? American holidays? Chinese holidays? Ambiguities like these take away from the pleasure of menu-reading. They leave the reader in a state of confusion and hopelessness, wondering what it all means, and whether you've wasted the day reading carefully the luncheon specials, only to discover today's Boxing Day and they're not available. Frustration.

Panel 7: Finally, the juicy stuff. Like Peking Duck. But for all of the description lavished on simple dishes like "pork wonton" we get nothing for the duck. Someone didn't see the forest for the bamboo shoots here. The emphasis is in the wrong place. People want to read about the duck, not the appetizers. I certainly hope the next menu in the series addresses some of these deficiencies.

Panel 8: "Not responsible for lost articles." Lost articles of what? Newspaper articles? Again, the writing is muddled, the meaning not clear. Can I not bring a magazine into the restaurant? Plus, this is a take-out menu -- where will I be leaving my articles, if they're delivering the food to my house? These logical inconsistencies mar an otherwise very readable manuscript.

Overall, there were few surprises. Perhaps the Hunan Scallops, an unusual concotion. But for the most part, this is as expected. A disappointment in what was perhaps the most hotly-anticipated Chinese Food Menu of the season.