Reading menus can be very stressful. Choosing your meal can be agonizing. It can make or break your dining experience. One of my daughters has anxiety attacks when faced with a new menu and always chooses the same thing in restaurants where she has eaten before. My other daughter researches the menu in advance and won’t even go to a restaurant unless she knows what she will order. My approach is to quickly eliminate all the strange combinations and things I don’t like (organ meats, oily fish, vegetables that are really weeds) to find what’s left.
You also can’t make your own choice in isolation. You must be wary of what others at the table are doing because you may have to defend your meal from predators. Look out when someone asks you what you’re having and then says “Oh no, I was gonna get that!” This suggests that they are now gonna get something else (probably organ meat and weeds) and eat part of yours (lobster ravioli and filet mignon). And you have to beware of the social types who say “why don’t we get a bunch of appetizers for the table and share?” Then, they ask you what you think of the next presidential election as soon as the food arrives. As you answer, count their bites. One of the most dangerous predators is my mother, who just orders a bowl of soup and says “I can’t eat like I used to”. What she really means is she wants no evidence of how much she really ate. But as the matriarch of the family she believes she is entitled to half of everything from anyone to whom she is remotely related (all Jews descended from Eastern Europeans) or is within arm’s distance.
Some people love the menu review process, but are not satisfied with just the written word. They require multi-media presentations like the plastic models of sweet and sour pork or beef with broccoli they have in Chinatown or a tray full of raw cuts of beef with live lobsters waving at them. I always find it helpful when they show me a large beefsteak tomato so I know what a big tomato looks like before it is sliced. Some people ask the waiter a lot of questions and want detailed descriptions to animate their experience. One of my friends enjoys this so much that he closes his eyes and smiles broadly as the waiter recites the ingredients and manner of preparation. You can feel him being transported to a special place.