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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Studying math, English and culture at Chinese and Greek restaurants



I am an American Jew. Therefore, I eat a lot of Chinese food. It's the Eleventh Commandment.

After that brief introduction, it's time for some humor:
  • According to the Jewish calendar, the year is 5773, and according to the Chinese calendar, the year is 4710. What did Jewish people eat for the first 1063 years until Chinese restaurants appeared?
  • Q: What do Jewish people do on Christmas? A: Go to a movie and eat Chinese food.
As an avid reader and language critic/cynic, I've spent a lot of time analyzing the text and math in Chinese restaurant menus.

When I worked in Manhattan, many small Chinese restaurants on the upper west side sold a large order of fried rice for $3.95. However, if you were willing to accept four chicken wings along with the same amount of rice, the price for the entire meal dropped to just $2.95.

It should be noted that in Greek-American diners the price of a slice of cheese can vary from a dime to a dollar or more, depending on what it is attached to.

My local Athenian Diner III offers "
Broiled London Broil." I guess that's better than boiled London Broil.

Greek-American diners tend to have many Jewish customers. Years ago my food-wise father warned me to never order chopped liver at a non-Jewish restaurant -- unless it was a Greek restaurant.  

I lived in Yonkers New York for 24 years (but for much of the time had a classier Scarsdale address). The nearby Seven Stars Diner always had fresh baked challah on the tables as a special treat for Jewish customers. During Passover, the restaurant manager ordered that matzoh be put in the bread baskets, too. The matzoh was 'polluted' by the challah -- but it was a nice gesture.

Another favorite restaurant in Yonkers, the Golden Wok, stated, "The order of eating in is much larger than the order of taking out." They also said," We can alter the spicy to suit your taste."

The Wok was owned by three brothers. Jerry split away from his brothers and opened a KOSHER Chinese restaurant about a mile north, planning to attract many observant Jewish eaters. His expectations were not met. Jerry prepared to do a big business on Friday nights. Friday nights are traditionally big money-makers for Chinese restaurants. Jerry didn't realize that observant Jews don't drive on Friday night -- the beginning of the Sabbath. Jerry gradually cut his staff, and then closed the restaurant and opened one on Long Island.

Many Chinese restaurants have trouble with English plurals and possessives. It's common to see "General Chicken" instead of "General Tso's Chicken" or "General's Chicken." If I don't want "General Chicken," could I get "Specific Chicken?" 

What should be plural nouns are often singular, like "direction to the restaurant." In the other direction, I've seen "beefs with broccoli."

"Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet" recently opened in Orange, Connecticut -- a few miles from my house. Part of its website was copied from another restaurant and states it is "the largest restaurant in Danville and surrounding area." There is no Danville near Orange.

The newspaper ad for the grand opening touted the restaurant as being the best "on the peninsula." The town of Orange is landlocked. It is not on a peninsula; but apparently some other restaurant is on a peninsula and the Orange restaurant copied its ad.

The menu includes "salmon fish." Apparently they have no salmon vegetables. (Some non-Chinese restaurants offer clam chowder soup.)

However, the food is excellent. The people are extremely nice. The selection is huge and you get a lot for your money. I'm a regular customer.

All the place needs is a good copyeditor.

However, because of my high regard for the Chinese people, I hereby grant a perpetual "pass" for imperfect menus and websites. If my stomach is happy, my brain will go along. A good chef is more important than a good writer.

Besides, If I had to write a menu in Chinese, it would be a disaster!

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