magnified_menuI love to cook, so we don’t go out to eat very often, and when we do it is usually for some special celebration or the unexpected guest arrives.  Lately when eating out, I have noticed a couple of trends in the menus of restaurants that have caused me some concern and by raising the flag here, may perhaps derail before they move any further down the track of acceptablility.

The first trend is that of infinitesimal type-size on the menu. Even when I take my reading glasses into the restaurant (which I must wear to read almost anything other than a good book), the florid descriptions of gastronomical wizardry are difficult to decipher without the aid of a magnifying glass approximately the size of the Hubble telescope.

One recent visit to a local eatery found my party seated outside well after dark at a table with soft candlelight.  The minutes ticked by and we were finally greeted by our wait person. We quickly placed our drink order and turned our attention to the menus now in front of us. At first glance, the menu appeared to be written in elf runes, but I could not be sure in the dim light, as the ink was black on a purple card stock which only served to increase the degree of difficulty in actually reading the document at hand.  The small font size would be challenging enough in black and white, as anyone who has ever used a phonebook recently will attest. But good lordy, purple with black ink at night – outside?  Anyone have a flaming torch so I can see this menu and make my choice?  I even considered walking over to a nearby streetlight in hopes of tilting the paper at just the right angle to get some contrast between the black ink and the purple paper.  You see, my ability to read anything in the dark has waned with my other super-powers, such as sleeping past 6 AM or staying awake past 11 PM.  I remained seated and after several minutes of  group squinting had passed, the wait person slouchingly re-appeared and inquired if we had any questions about the menu. Her flat tone clearly signaled that she hoped desperately that we DID NOT have any questions, but I was fairly bursting with them. Exercising great self-control, I voiced one single well-aimed query. In a most serious, dulcet tone, I asked: “What is written on it?”  Let me tell you, that waitress looked at me as if I had just told her that her cheap, smudged eyeliner was made of ground-up pork rinds!  Now, I am not one for prolonged uncomfortable situations, although short ones can be enjoyable as long as you are not the one who is uncomfortable.  So I laughed it off and said that I would take a hamburger and fries. At that point, I dared not even ask about our pitcher of Hoegaarden beer, which we had been waiting for seemingly since before President Obama uttered his first…uhhhh, because waiting on tables is tough.  I know, because I have done it more than once myself, so Missy with the raccoon eyes got a pass there. But whoever approved that tiny font and purple paper should be made to work Sudoku puzzles while hanging upside down listening to rap music.

I wonder if any of the  “under 30” crowd with 20/20 vision feel that a 12 pt font size is unreasonably large to put on a menu?  Would they mind so much if most of us “over 35-ers” were able to read menus without searching for our glasses or squinting to the point of a headache?  More importantly, if I can’t read a menu, does that mean I can park in the handicapped spot outside the door of the restaurant?  I could be wrong, but I don’t think illegibility is desirable in a menu as it would seem to affect the bottom line.  And while I am on the subject, any type of cursive font is best left for wedding and graduation announcements, OK?

The other trend to which I would like to draw  attention is that of making formerly meat dishes out of ingredients other than meat. I suppose that is all well and good for the greens and grains lobby, but can’t you just call it what it is? Should we really say it is a meatloaf if it doesn’t have meat? Can it really be called a hamburger if it is actually a soy patty?  I think not!  But that cultural train has already left the station without me, so I don’t expect that to change. Go ahead and have your Tofurkey.

However, in the interest of fair play I would like to suggest to any restaurateurs that might be reading this to add veggie named items that are actually made out of meat. It would be a nice balance to all those former meat dishes now rendered from tofu, edamame and grains. The time has come for carnivores everywhere to come out of the closet and stand up and be fed!  As one of those carnivores, I would embrace the creativity of food design previously only available to those who swung the vegan way.  For example, I would love to be able to order a Hummus dip made from ground sirloin. We could call it Hummus Tar-Tar.  How about chick peas made from actual chicken? I can’t think of a clever name for it yet, but big chunks of pork would be yummy and no doubt popular when sold under the right veggie-centric nomenclature. I am open to whatever those culinary wizards could create with one exception and that would be Tofu-B-Que.  Somehow that just wouldn’t seem right and it would only lead down the slippery slope of regionalized Tofu-B-Que wars, cook-offs and Food Channel Specials, and the inescapable eventuality of Tofu Veal.  I shudder to think of the demonstrations and anguished outcry from PETA against the cruel living conditions of the little baby tofu’s before they were to became the $12.00 featured entree.

Yep, if you ask me, we would have to draw the line at Tofu-B-Que.  And if it were left to me to draw that line, rest assured it would be where everyone could see it, because it would be drawn on cream colored paper in black ink with at least a size 12 font!

Jim Warren

Jim Warren

Jim Warren, a Marietta, GA resident, is a self-taught writer of essays and observational humor. He is currently working towards completion of his second book: Barefoot on Hot Asphalt. His first book of essays: Cowlicked! Rants, Remembrances, and Ruminations is available through, or by contacting the author.

  1. Nice piece–Started my day with a smile–Not that my 50 yr old eyes need help on the menu !!

  2. YES, I am in favor of tofu BBQ.
    Have you ever gone on a trip with a vegetarian? I’d get to stop at barbecues a lot more often of tofuQ were on the menu. My boyfriend is well and truly sick of eating cole slaw sandwiches while I stuff myself on pork and brunswick stew. Bring it on!

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