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Calvin Trillin estimates that Kenny Shopsin's restaurant has some 900 items on its menu. And Shopsin has but little mercy on his customers:
For years, a rule against copying your neighbor's order was observed fairly strictly. Customers who had just arrived might ask someone at the next table the name of the scrumptious-looking dish he was eating. Having learned that it was Burmese Hummus — one of my (Trillin's) favorites, as it happens, even though it is not hummus and would not cause pangs of nostalgia in the most homesick Burmese — they might order Burmese Hummus, only to have Eve shake her head wearily. No copying. That rule eventually got downgraded into what Ken called "a strong tradition," and has now pretty much gone by the wayside. "I realized that the problem was not that they were trying to imitate the other person but that they weren't capable of ordering anything themselves, and it was just unnecessary cruelty to point that out to them," Kenny told me not long ago. He said he was getting more and more people of that sort.
"Why is that?" I asked.
"The country's going that way," he said glumly.
I blame McDonald's.
April 11, 2002 3:21 PM
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