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September, 2007 | Manolo's Food Blog
Archive - September, 2007

Mr. Henry makes a confession

SandraLee.jpgIt all started with Sandra Lee, America’s semi-homemade TV food vixen. Channel surfing on a rainy vacation afternoon, Little Henry and Stinky found Sandra on the Food Network and the rest is, well, an ugly story of dependence, obsession, and addiction.

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Who can resist the way her pink top matches not only the drapes but the paper napkins and the hors d’oeuvres, too? Who can resist watching her scoop the innards out of an A & P cheese cake, load it into a pastry sleeve, and “pop it” onto cute lil’ crackers? The scene recalls Shelley Duvall’s pigs in a blanket from Robert Altman’s dark masterpiece 3 Women. She’s a train wreck of Americana.
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Then came Iron Chef, the high-kitch, haute cuisine smashdown that years ago Mr. Henry watched in translation on some obscure cable channel. Mr. Henry remains in awe of the remarkable inventions these masters cobble together in one hour.
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Now there is Top Chef.

Night and day Padma Lakshmi’s toffee-tongued locutions ring round the Henry living room. Clipped, staccato, 22-calibur pronouncements explode up through Tom Colicchio’s shiny pate. Yes, Top Chef on Bravo TV never ceases. Should you miss an episode, just wait. The replay is coming up soon.

The secret attraction of Top Chef, Mr. Henry confesses, is the weekly drubbing the judges hand out. It is the sure promise of real humiliation that grips the audience, the sadomasochistic pleasure of seeing young, eager acolytes sent to their doom. Die, young chefs! We who are about to cook salute you!

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Looking at Padma’s longshanks frame, one wonders just how much rich food she actually swallows. Mr. Henry, in fact, spends a good part of each episode examining Padma’s hypnotic physique and the clothing with which she drapes it. How can she be so thin and still have curves? Has she been surgically redesigned into a foodie fem-bot? Padma.bikini.jpg

Will she ever reveal the secret story behind the enormous scar that runs the entire length of her upper right arm? Mr. Henry harbors a secret affection for the tall, scarred Padma’s of this world.

And Padma, too, harbors secret affections. When forced to eliminate tall, handsome guys like Sam last season or C.J. this season, her dark eyes swell with tears. Hard as he may try, Mr. Henry cannot look away.

Mr. Henry gives thanks

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Still in his morning skivvies, Mr. Henry raises his eyes heavenwards to offer thanks for:

– the Genius Bar whiz kids who repaired Mr. Henry’s MacBook.

– high 75° with low humidity.

– the new Lyle Lovett.

– Liz the foot wrangler who is curing Mr. Henry’s fallen third left metatarsal.

– Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons.Ben-Hogan-Print-C10097613.jpeg

And yet, Mr. Henry remains less than completely satisfied. He longs to integrate all his pleasures. He offers up a late summer prayer to be granted perfection in multi-slacking.

A novel by John Lanchester, The Debt to Pleasure, combines two of Mr. Henry’s principal interests – murder and food.

Through slyly brilliant description, Lanchester manages to make traditional English cooking seem positively sensual and murder seem downright defensible.

Mr. Henry hears your wry retort, “The English have always murdered their food.” Save it. Lanchester’s humor is way ahead of your own, possibly even ahead of Mr. Henry’s.

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Banana mini-muffins

Now is the time of bounty, the season when little baskets in the market brim sinfully with berries so ripe you cannot in good conscience pass them by. They must be rescued and carried swiftly home to be consumed before sun-up.

From Mexico there are mangoes too broad to hold in one hand and giant red papayas nearly too broad to hold in two. Yellow peaches have arrived from local orchards as have blackberries the size of gumballs. All types of summer squash are perfect.

Amid such abundance, Mr. Henry hesitates to complain. These days, however, bananas, nature’s most perfect food, are rather too small and too ripe. Here is Mrs. Henry’s peerless recipe for banana mini-muffins. They freeze wonderfully.

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Cream together 1 stick of butter and 1 cup of sugar.
Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time.
Mix dry ingredients:
1 cup unbleached white flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup wheat bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Mash 3 ripe bananas with 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Add dry ingredients to butter/egg/sugar.
Add mashed bananas.
Add ½ cup plain non-fat yogurt.

Lightly grease mini-muffin pan. (If preparing large muffins you may elect to use silicone cups.) Bake in convection oven at 350 degrees until brown, about 10 minutes.