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September 15, 2008

Play with your food

Filed under: Books,Fast food,Reading — Mr. Henry @ 3:30 pm


“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

This is sound advice representing balanced good-sense values. Although Mr. Henry was not the first to coin the remark, he heeds its admonition conscientiously.

Proper care must be taken in handling both the gun and the cannoli, and each can be useful in a pinch, but the cannoli is the subtler means of persuasion. As a general rule of etiquette, Mr. Henry advises you to take the cannoli.


Do you know who said it, and in what movie? If you do, you’ll triumph at the new parlor game Foodie Fight, a Trivial Pursuit-style competition quiz that the Henry posse finds irresistible –  lowdown fun at high table.

Children are instructed NOT to play with their food. But isn’t playing with food the essence of the  international food revolution? Don’t chefs play both with ingredients and with presentation? Don’t we place high value on such food-play?


Many years ago Mr. Henry climbed the stairs to visit his photographer friend Maggie. On her table under the big umbrella lights that day lay piles of green peppers and bags of black-eyed peas. Maggie was busy shooting How are you Peeling?, another book of  visual genius from  Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers.

Fast Food is the newest one, appropriate for anyone over the age of two. It’s delicious.

May 5, 2008

Disappearing Foods

Filed under: American Food,Books — Mr. Henry @ 8:26 am

renewingamericasfood.jpg In a New York Times article “Disappearing Foods,” Kim Severson reviews the new book by Gary Paul Nabhan, Renewing America’s Food Traditions.

Accompanying the article is a marvelous interactive graphic illustrating areas of the United States organized by “gastronomic regions.”

With one finger on the touch pad Mr. Henry wandered interactively around the country. In “Gumbo Nation,” the Gulf Coast region, he read the words “clay field peas” and memories sprouted like magic beans.

Not since the middle 1960’s had Mr. Henry tasted these delicacies. Field peas look like pale green black-eyed peas or greener versions of white acre peas. Normally they are dried and used as fodder. When served fresh, however, boiled with ham hock as Mr. Henry remembers them, they taste creamy, mildly nutty, and divinely sweet. Mr. Henry’s favorite boyhood vegetable, one day about 45 years ago they simply disappeared from the market. Were these the disappearing “clay field peas?”crab.jpg

In “Crabcake Nation,” the southern Atlantic Coast, during Mr. Henry’s youth blue crabs ran thick and wild on Florida beaches.

For spring vacation this year Mr. Henry took the kids to Florida. Promising them a bonanza of blue crab, he bought six flashlights and six poles with crab nets. After dark the hunting party set off after its nocturnal, side-striding prey. They found not a single blue crab on the beach. Mr. Henry hung his bush hat in disgrace. Are blue crabs disappearing?

In “Chestnut Nation,” the Appalachians, Mr. Henry once stopped at a roadside farm stand high in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Spying mason jars of something mustard yellow in color, he read the label: “chou-chou.”

Thinking the name was derived from French, he asked, “Is this ‘shoo-shoo’ a pickled cabbage?”

“Naw,” said the tiny young woman. “That’s chow chow.”

“Hmmm,” said Mr. Henry. “Is it sweet?”

“Well,” she said pursing her thin lips, “It’s got right smart sugar in it.”

In Appalachian argot, “right smart” means “quite a bit.” The pickle, although a little too sweet, was crunchy and delightfully flavorful. Indeed, it was not cabbage but Jerusalem artichoke pickled in mustard. Was this Jack’s copperclad Jerusalem artichoke, one of America’s disappearing foods?

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