Mr. Henry has been roughing it in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, living on Grape Nuts, Eight O’Clock Coffee, bacon, tuna fish, red chard, chips, salsa, and Yeungling Black & Tan.
To capture the internet he cruised Third Avenue while his laptop Airport searched for a signal. Parked in the breezeway of the Jacksonville Beach Quality Suites, he logged onto the hotel wi-fi and downloaded the Manolosphere. Across the parking lot the Crab Shack loudspeaker bellowed “Baker, party of six! Baker, party of six!” Even from 100 yards the air was thick with frying oil. He wanted to shout, “Bakers, save yourselves! Don’t do it!” but Mr. Henry does not foist his opinions upon innocent beach people.
To his amusement and delight, during his absence spirited contributors duked things out for themselves without intrusive guidance or editorial assistance. It was a barroom brawl from the Old West, a fair fight in which things sorted themselves out to the satisfaction of the many.
Mr. Henry does not like to apologize. He embraces the old show business adage, “Never complain. Never explain.” Now and again, however, he will do so, if only for the pleasure of breaking his own rules.
The kerfuffle over Michael Pollan’s injunction against more than five ingredients was settled satisfactorily. Yes, Pollan does refer to packaged products, not to other recipes, as Mr. Henry should have noted.
The food fight over pizza was such good fun that Mr. Henry is almost sorry to say he is sorry. He should have specified “American pizza,” the take-out kind. A thin-crust pizza with light tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil like Serafina’s in New York or Mrs. Henry’s home-made is one of life’s irresistible temptations.
Likewise for take-out tacos. A fresh fish taco from Baja California is one of the world’s great treats. Here in Florida Mr. Henry has been imagining just such treats by dipping his corn chips into the tuna fish, watching the Atlantic while dreaming of the Pacific. (There must be a name for such ingratitude, no? Or does the beach air simply render you perpetually sulky and less than satisfied?)
Regarding Mr. Henry’s denunciation of Subway, he just does not trust “cold cuts.”(Chachaheels explained most eloquently precisely why you should avoid fast-food sandwich places.) When he eats a roast beef sandwich, he cuts the meat from beef he roasts himself. In a pinch he will eat the fresh baked country ham from Zabar’s, but if he wants to eat genuine salumeria, he doesn’t put it on a sandwich.
Inevitably cold cuts are preserved in some nitrate or glutamate that to Mr. Henry’s nose smells like embalming fluid. Eating cold cuts he gets the queasy sensation of having crashed high in the Andes trying to remain ALIVE!
In Roughing It, Mark Twain reports:
“At the Green River station we had breakfast – hot biscuits, fresh antelope steaks, and coffee – the only decent meal we tasted between the United States and Great Salt Lake City, and the only one we were ever really thankful for. Think of the monotonous execrableness of the thirty that went before it, to leave this one simple breakfast looming up in my memory like a shot-tower after all these years gone by!”
Tomorrow Mr. Henry faces the monotonous execrableness of Walt Disney World, and he must face it like a man, not a mouse.