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Could You Repeat The Question?


You know what I noticed since I started writing this column? That people don’t write in to ask questions so much as they write in to complain.

I’m not complaining. I don’t mean to knock these other question-and-answer columns, but I’ve never once heard anyone say, “My life was going down the tubes, but then I wrote in to the newspaper, and now everything’s better!”

Why is that?

Probably because people like to complain. They never tell you when things are better. You have to ask.

“How about that thing that you spent hours talking my ear off about last time? Is that still a problem?”

“What? Oh. No. But listen to what the problem is this time.”

But I don’t care. Complaints are great for business, so long as you put them in the form of a question.

Our first one today comes from someone in Brookline, MA, who is surprised to find that she’s having a hand in planning her friend’s wedding:

Dear Mordechai,

I just got an invitation to a wedding, and they want to know if I want, quote, “chicken or vegetarian.” What on earth is “vegetarian”? As far as I know, that’s not a food. That’s a lifestyle choice. What is the food?

Undecided, Brookline, MA

Dear Undecided,

Nobody knows. Grammatically, the choice doesn’t make sense. Is it asking if you want to eat chicken or vegetarian? I’m not going to eat a vegetarian. They’re too gamey. Is it asking if I AM a vegetarian? Or what? A chicken? Yes, I’m a chicken. I have nothing against vegetables, but I always pick chicken, because I’m afraid of what they’re going to try to pass as vegetables.

No, “vegetarian” is not a food. But nor are the baalei simcha descriptive about what they’re actually putting into the chicken. So they’re not really giving you a menu choice here. If you’re a chicken person, you don’t care what they’re putting on the chicken. It’s got to be better than whatever “vegetarian” is. And if you’re a vegetarian, you don’t care what the vegetarian option is, as long as it’s not chicken. The card isn’t asking what you want, it’s asking what you don’t want.

I got an invitation like that for a wedding I recently went to: “Chicken or vegetarian?” And I was wondering about it. “Vegetarian” means “vegetables,” right? But aren’t there going to be vegetables on the chicken plate as well? So what’s “vegetarian”?

So my guess was that the choices were: A. a plate that, in addition to vegetables, has chicken, or B. a plate that has a big gaping hole where the chicken would otherwise be. Like it fell off the plate on the way to your table, and the hosts want to know if they can just give the rest of the plate to you. Or do they have to scrape the chicken off the floor and put it back on the plate?

But it turned out that the vegetarian option was some kind of tofu dish. Which I’m not sure is a vegetable either. I don’t know why we keep punishing vegetarians by giving them tofu. Haven’t they suffered enough?

But apparently, they eat it. Basically, vegetarians got together at some point and decided that they’re going to eat something that is as unappealing to us as our food is to them. They serve tofu to weed out the real vegetarians from the people who just want to eat more salad, or the chickens like me who are curious as to what the reply card means by “vegetarian.”

I do eat soy. I put soy sauce on my sushi, and it’s delicious. Soy is supposed to be a bean, like cholent beans. I don’t know what they do to the soy that makes it look and feel like a magic eraser sponge, and I don’t want to know.

Dear Mordechai,

How come I have to ask my kids again and again to do something, and they don’t listen? It’s like talking to the walls. In fact, I feel like if I say it one more time, the walls will just get up and do it themselves, just to get me to stop.

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