Short Order: 'I'll have A. No, make that B... or maybe C?'

Sometimes I think I agonize less over life decisions than over whether to take soup or salad.

'Sorry - I won't have the ricotta bagel. I'll have the smoked salmon instead..." As I listened to myself changing my order and silently blessed the waitress for her patient (or was it long-suffering?) expression, I wondered for the umpteenth time what it is that makes me so indecisive when I'm confronted with a restaurant menu. Sometimes I think I agonize less over life decisions than over whether to take soup or salad. "It's not a problem for me," said a friend I turned to about this. "I don't like most things on a menu, so my choice is a process of elimination." "I'm usually OK," said another. "I know what I want. But I have friends who dither and dather over their order - and then wish they'd asked for something someone else has." "Hmm," responded a third friend, a psychologist, "it's an interesting question - akin, I'd say, to going into a store. If the choice is small, you make up your mind quickly. But a tremendous selection poses a problem. "Take a musical, for instance, where the principal girl is surrounded by a horde of admirers. How does she know she's picked the right one?" What about the conviction that your neighbor's grass - or salad - is greener? I asked her. "It's human, very natural to feel that what others have is better than what you have," she replied. "It's become part of modern philosophy to see getting to your goal as what's important - and when you reach it, you're going to be disappointed. So we're prepared to be disappointed." She paused. "Poring over a menu brings up the feeling of uncertainty prevalent in modern life. And the larger the menu, the more uncertainty, and the more luck is going to come into play... like with the Lotto. "Life itself," she reflected, "has become like a ridiculous menu." ROSE MEYER, a stalwart of the Sam Orbaum Jerusalem Scrabble Club, has not forgotten her origins despite her many years here. "This is a delicious spread or hors d'oeuvre we always enjoyed in England," she told me, handing over a slip of paper, "but it is virtually impossible to buy ready-made here." I haven't forgotten my origins either, so here goes: CHOPPED HERRING 1 small tub or jar of pickled herring, or a mixture of pickled and matjas herring 1 hard-boiled egg 1 sweet apple 1-2 slices bread, with or without crusts Peel, core and quarter the apple. Put everything into your food processor or blender for a few minutes, together with the onion and some of the liquid from the herring. Season with a little sugar, if you like. HERE'S A creamy, nutty salad that might serve you well during those light summer lunches. It's from Quick & Kosher - Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing by Jamie Geller. GOAT'S CHEESE WALNUT SALAD mixed baby salad leaves 11⁄2 cups dried cranberries 1 small red onion, thinly sliced 1 log soft, fresh goat's cheese, crumbled 11⁄2 cups walnuts Dressing: 21⁄2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard 1⁄2 Tbsp. fresh thyme (or 1⁄2 tsp. dried), finely chopped up to 7 Tbsp. olive oil 1⁄2 tsp. salt 1⁄4 tsp. black pepper Mix the leaves, cranberries and onion in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle on the cheese and walnuts. Mix the vinegar, mustard and thyme in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil and seasoning. Toss the salad with the dressing immediately before serving. IN A recent column, I quoted "When life throws you a lemon, find someone with vodka and throw a party." This galvanized Debbie Morgenstern - "The Wacky Cook of the Internet" (find her via Google) - into sending me a list of the lesser-known uses to which vodka can be put. Here are a few: • To remove a Band-Aid painlessly, saturate it with vodka. It dissolves adhesive. • To clean your eyeglasses, wipe the lenses with a soft, clean cloth dampened with vodka. The alcohol cleans the glass and kills germs. • Fill a spray bottle with vodka and spray wine stains. Brush and blot dry. • Use vodka as an astringent to cleanse your face and tighten pores. • To relieve a fever, rub vodka on your chest and back with a washcloth. • Vodka will disinfect and alleviate a jellyfish sting. • Swish a shot of vodka over an aching tooth to numb the pain. (But I'd draw the line at taking along a shot for the dentist.) [email protected]