“Surely,” you say, “a description of each dish is sufficient. Why open the robes and bare the gaudy breasts of a duck when Canard à l’Orange: a roasted duck basted in a bigarade sauce will do?” Under antique chandeliers, adorned with nothing more than a set of flicking candles, a diner could easily misread that item as Canada al Ironage, a poutine and metal dish fit for a drunken robot. With a photograph, there can be no confusion. Under any lighting—even fluorescent—a cigarette-burned picture of a waffle with bacon conveys all one needs to know, unlike a passive-aggressive text from a mercurial sweetheart.
While an upscale establishment must meet the high expectations of its patrons, in return there are highfalutin standards for the clientele. A certain level of familiarity with cuisine is required, of course, but not every menu reader needs to be a Le Cordon Bleu applicant. The mind can only hold so many types of produce or methods of cooking when there are so many other things to remembrances to treasure, like the feeling of a lover’s embrace or the validation of parking. When said lover asks “What is cipollini, anyway?” and you can only respond with “A type of cheese, I think,” all is lost.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” she’ll say—and you’ll respond that you don’t know everything in the goddamn world, so if she’s so right she can Google it, and she’ll tell you not to take your fucking phone out at the table because you’re having a nice evening for ONCE in your miserable lives. With a simple rendition of the dish, even in black and white, your beauteous companion can simply say “Cipollini? Oh, I don’t like onions,” and move on to the hash brown section without ever plotting a subtle acquisition of cyanide capsules.
I know what you’re thinking: these are scintillating observations, but we can’t degrade to the level of a Waffle House at Michelin star restaurants! The pictures at Waffle House are for drunk and belligerent souls who have lost the ability to comprehend words.” I am not saying that I often dine out in these conditions. But who can blame me, in our war-torn world, of mending my heart by occasionally becoming drunk and belligerent? Fucking Jessica can blame me, but my fiesta omelette never will.
Communication between dining partners and their esteemed servers will also be improved by the implementation of pictures. In our current dreary set-up, the pronouncement that you will have the Porcelet Porchetta is met with a cocked head. The waiter, never impolite but always condescending, will ask “I’m sorry, the what? If you’re in the mood for pork, might I recommend the por-cel-eé por-SET-ah?”
This rebuke, delivered with a perfect French accent, is sure to set your masochistic lover aquiver, and she’ll join in the fun by saying “and the Canada al Ironage for the unfeeling drunken robot across from me.” It would be infinitely more pleasurable if, instead, your lover could point to a photo and the server would simply say “one Scattered, Smothered, and Covered coming up.” Maybe your taste is different, but I’d rather not trade witty barbs when I could be trading forkfuls of cheesy potatoes. Diced or chunked indeed!
When choosing a meal, I don’t want to choose with my brain, but with my heart, and the closest things my heart has to eyes are my actual eyes. After all, we depend on great paintings to convey the most complex emotions. One could read a thousand tomes on the violent bombing of a Basque country village and still not understand the chaos and suffering. But one look at Picasso’s “Guernica” and it’s as if you were there, fleeing the flames, abject terror running through your veins. Similarly, one look at a picture of pink circle meat and I can taste the salty sweetness melting into my taste buds before I can even say “side ham, if you please.”
A picture is worth a thousand words, and menu full of pictures is worth a thousand drops of saliva. Don’t let those drops be wasted trying to untangle a bevy of terminology, or on spitting the poison right back into your lover’s face. Add photographs to your menus, and that saliva can instead drip onto the menu, marking the dish I will enjoy.
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