THE WRITE ORDER
It can take a long time to read a menu, especially if it is multi-paged. It’s a mini-book and has the makings of a good story: plot, setting, protagonists, antagonists, and a problem to be solved. Every word makes a difference. Descriptives are critical. If the plot fails to interest, one might put the book down and not return to pick it up again.
Let’s break the “manuscript” down starting with the title.
The title must grab the reader’s attention. It must have an attribute to compel further reading. The Purple Pig, Topolobampo (just saying it tickles the tongue), and Pinched on the River, which sounds like it could have x rated moments, are a few intriguing titles I’ve come across while scouting restaurants in Chicago.
The plot is straightforward- Peruse. Choose. Infuse.
The setting singular- Any restaurant. Manifestations overflow. There is no portion control here.
We must ask: What in a menu and eventually on the plate is the protagonist? The correct answer would be food. It must be drool-worthy, succulent to the mind’s eyes, and so aromatic to perceived smell, it elicits moans. It’s a tender hug from the inside out. Examples might be: poached pears resting in silky pools of crème anglaise, cheeses so blue they garner first place ribbons, hash browns the color of burnt sienna, crispy and tender at the same time.
What about the antagonist? It’s possible one will have to sift through several courses before identifying the antagonist. It frequently assumes numerous forms. It might stir up temptation, have a scalding temper, or be steeped in some unidentifiable marinade. It is frequently found sandwiched between friends or disguised perhaps as chilled gazpacho served lukewarm, tater tots postured as potato croquettes, canned corn claiming to be fresh from the cob.
Last on our list of must haves is a “problem” that needs to be resolved. Easy, or maybe not, what to order. What to order? Solid story building helps getting through questionable times as this. With pages to read, questions to be answered, (preparation, ingredients, serving size- tension spikes. Everyone else at the table has ordered and waits for me. The server stands over my shoulder. A face is smiling, concealing impatience that is betrayed by a pad of paper being rapped with a pen.
A seemingly simple plot bubbles with anticipation, like a pot of boiling pasta, it gains momentum as it heads toward the al dente finish. Decisions made, action taken. The solution is determined. Ahhh. Resolution.
The chapter book titled Menu is finished. If it’s been a satisfying read, it will be revisited. If not, well, another will mini-book will soon be in my hands. My review: Thank goodness for good story structure, and more happy endings than not.
I like it. Clever and different. By the way, at your favorite restaurant, what would you have ordered going from appetizer to dessert?
Skip the appetizer they aren’t that interesting at this restaurant– splurge on Italian bread dipped in olive oil, roast chicken with extra leeks, side of fresh veggies. Dessert? It changes so I am not sure.
How about you?