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Jewish World Review June 7, 2002 / 27 Sivan, 5762

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

He who brings menus
deserves praise | NEW YORK It drives me crazy!" says one friend. "Can't stand it!" swears another. "I hate it, hate it, hate it!" shrieks my neighbor.

And they're not talking about terrorism or income tax or even "The Bachelor."

They are talking about menus under the door.

For some reason, this is an issue that inflames the hearts of most New Yorkers faster than a double order of spare ribs. So incendiary has the matter become that City Councilwoman Madeline Provenzano, a Bronx Democrat, is sponsoring a bill to outlaw the dissemination of menus and other unsolicited pamphlets on doorsteps and in lobbies. To which we politely reply: Get a life.

While you're at it, get a No. 62 - tofu with Chinese vegetables. Delicious.

Unwanted takeout menus are a time-honored tradition that our city may have actually pioneered, like the leaden knish and the bipolar cabbie.

"I'm the first!" claims Misa Chang, owner of the Empire Szechuan dynasty of seven Manhattan restaurants. She opened her original hole in the wall on W. 97th St. in the dark days of 1976. "That time we are very poor," she recalls. "My husband was a student at Columbia. Nobody know I have a restaurant, so I think, 'How to let people know I'm here?'"

Then, like a surprise attack by General Tso himself, the great idea struck: "I make copy of the menu, then do the menu apartment to apartment," Chang says. "Doormen help me."

The photocopies promised something new - fast, free delivery in a neighborhood so creepy back then that many locals were afraid to dine out.

So why did this great leap forward spawn such wailing?

"Maybe it's intrusive," hypothesizes my friend Gary. "In an overpopulated city, our little apartments provide our only respite. To have those invaded by a slip of paper becomes a symbolic violation."

Gary, get a Ph.D.

"Maybe it's the bending down?"

Get real. People pay to bend down. It's called aerobics.

"Well, maybe it's that we already have our Chinese restaurant we like to order from, and we secretly don't want any more choices."

Gary - you want to write this column?

The real reason people hate menus is obviously that, as with McDonald's, The Gap and Bush family sons, there are just too many of them. We are flooded with menus - sometimes two of three from the same restaurant in a single week. They're one step above litter.

But litter never helped anyone figure out what he wanted for dinner, which these menus do. And it's impossible to get mad at the dirt-poor delivery guys trying to pay back their smugglers by blitzing apartment buildings with offers of cheap, succulent food.

And if you really harbor ill will toward these flyers, you can always use them for something else, as my friend Adrienne does when she forgets a baggie and is walking her dog.

So for anyone feeling hot and sour about the wanton proliferation of menus, as does Provenzano, here is one diner's suggestion: Make like the sesame noodles and chill.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002, New York Daily News