If you’re at all like me (and who would admit it if they were?) you’ve got a stack of Self magazines head-high taking up the space where your life-size Aragorn used to stand proudly, and what have you got to show for it except an exhaustive knowledge of the phytochemical composition of any grocery item, the ability to perform a flawless plié squat, and about ten million pictures of Women Laughing Alone With Salad.
Well, now you can put that collection to practical use as the model for a cheap and un-constricting Halloween costume! Bonus cultural literacy points for timely meme reference that only about 25% of your friends will get, even if you’re all on Tumblr.
If putting on and keeping on a happy face is too much for you, then you could always fall back on our suggestion of last year.
Sometimes Monday needs nothing more than a super-cute little video from Kate Spade New York to remind us that delightful food is essential to a life lived in technicolour (but how many calories are in a rainbow?). And for your delightful, post-rainbowcake espresso, the Kate Spade Larabee Road demitasse set would put the sun back in the sky even in February, if only for a moment.
The deep satisfaction of vegan cuisine on the magic mountain of Koya-san seems to have stymied Mr. Henry’s urge to write. He feels spiritually cleansed. He feels gastro-intestinally cleansed. Ideas and aperçus about food in its many transmogrifications flit continuously through the Henry imagination, but fail to perch on solid outcrop. What is happening?
Mr. Henry is simply not very hungry.
The seasonal combination of warm weather, flowering trees, and a noticeable layer of winter fat round the waist together with a strange energy bounce from reverse jet lag left him without an appetite for anything more than good coffee, bananas, yogurt, pecan raisin bread and dark chocolate in the morning, and for salads, cheese and wine at night – all foods difficult to find in Japan, apart from good coffee, that is, which was uniformly excellent except at the one expensive hotel the Henry party visited, the Swissôtel in Osaka.
Mr. Henry is usually disappointed by restaurant coffee, particularly in fine dining establishments where management bumps up your bill an extra seven bucks for an acrid, watery, lukewarm espresso instead of charging an honest buck fifty for a hot cup of paper filter drip.
A recent New York Times article decried the nauseating coffee you get in Paris. Of all beautiful places where you most want to sit outside, drink a coffee, and watch impeccably dressed women swish-clicking past, Paris was once the first choice. But since the French all suffer from rotten-coffee stomach cramp, it’s no wonder they are so depressed.
People watching in Japan holds special merits. Thigh-high boots are de rigueur. Although this is a fashion mistake, and although women in Japan all seem to have misshapen knees from kneeling on tatami mats, and although high heels induce an awkward gait (apologies to The Manolo), when sitting gazing from behind your cup of rich, delicious coffee you need not wait very long for the happy chance to examine yet another youthful thigh.
Fashion trends no longer originate in Paris. Look to Tokyo for the next new thing in fashion as well as in food. Pickles and raw egg on rice for breakfast, anyone? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
Vegetarianism doesn’t seem to have penetrated snow country. Here in the mountain aerie of The Canyons at Park City, shining ersatz village on a hill, meat is what’s for dinner, in particular exotic meats like elk and bison. Salads are topped with bacon bits, duck confit, and other meaty delicacies. Although they won’t become local in Utah until global warming advances a bit farther, sea scallops, perhaps the richest food of the sea, routinely pop up on menus of fine restaurants.
If you want to live on vegetables in Utah ski country, you’re stuck with chili or bean burritos.
Since this town is younger than Mr. Henry’s Timberland boots, it might seem churlish to expect it to be steeped in authentic tradition. But why must every entrée arrive with a glaze, reduction, or coulis invariably too sweet?
Mr. Henry blames Top Chef. The world has fallen under the svengali sway of Padma Lakshmi, television’s dark-eyed temptress and siren of oral pleasure. Today across the nation young men sharpen knives, grow a soul patch, and dream of seducing Padma with something on a plate. Young women, too, have joined the kitchen crusade.
The upshot of this competitive hedonism is that new chefs are using too many ingredients at once. Last night at The Westgate Grill, Mr. Henry ordered elk tenderloin (raised in New Zealand… no wasting disease there). In itself the elk was delicious, but it could not win a valiant fight with a syrupy blueberry sauce. Passed out beside the elk lay “drunken mushrooms” over-marinated in red wine. Steamed and broiled Brussels sprouts, the evening’s highlight, however, were perfectly prepared.
The question remains: why must chefs insist on overpowering the palate with contrasting and, too often, conflicting flavors? Why can’t they let ingredients speak for themselves? Elk filet is sumptuously elegant and requires little in the way of adornment.
Typical of the Top Chef generation, the Westgate Grill’s salad chef got the look but not the taste. Spinach salad piled in a stack with blue cheese and walnuts looked beautiful and had the right combination of flavors, but it was drowning in dressing.
Padma, hear us! The nation cries to you for balance, for restraint… for bridle, halter, crop and lump of sugar…yes, yes, yes.
All week Londoners have been enjoying an unusual spell of sunny weather. Could this be the explanation why low-cut blouses and scanty dresses dominate feminine fashion? Not since he walked the beach of Nice at age 17, a peak experience of his late boyhood, has Mr. Henry seen so very much of so very many bosoms.
Like great white naval vessels riding the high seas, bouncing breasts command the London concourse. Rule Britannia!
In every cafe, pub, and restaurant he visited this week, the waitress chose her outfit for a stage audition. Mistress Quickly, a tavern wench, or the village strumpet are juicy parts, to be sure, confident to bring advancement. These actresses really can fill the role.
Lately when Mr. Henry thinks of scones with clotted cream, visions of Devonshire dairy maids pop up. The word “pudding” now animates Mr. Henry’s imagination towards sweets not available on the menu.
Bottoms are nearly as uncovered as tops. Rare English sunshine illuminates scanty pants beneath gauzy skirts. It’s a little bit much, really. Or rather, it’s a little bit too little.
Mr. Henry likes the female form. He adores the female form. The unengaged parts of his brain think of little else but the female form. In his considered opinion, there is nothing like a dame. But he finds himself distracted by seeing so much female nakedness in this traditionally prudish country. Bombarded by pale-skinned and dark-skinned beauties, how can he be expected to absorb the subtleties of English Gothic architecture? Concentration flags. Mental acuity goes mushy. His train of thought follows the wrong signal switch and then he wonders why he bothered to trudge all this way just to abuse his feet on medieval paving stones.
When a man is tired of London breasts, is he tired of life?
Seeking revival in traditional pub foods – bangers and mash, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, ploughman’s lunch – time and again Mr. Henry found the menu listing duck breast salad or felafel instead. The English pub has gone gastro.
On nearly every menu now there is a vegetarian selection indicated by (v). This represents a genuine revolution in English cooking. Results are mixed, but in two cases so far the felafel has been first-rate – freshly prepared, brightly seasoned, and crisply fried. Salads have been excellent.
The steak and ale pie Mr. Henry snagged at the Wellington on The Strand lived up to tradition. Judging by the crust’s sturdy exterior and soggy interior, it could have been made in the 18th century. It was timelessness itself.
The week’s most exciting taste without doubt were the Alphonso mangoes from India, pale orange with the creamiest, most aromatic flesh, available for only a few weeks each year. Mr. Henry bought them at the Saturday farmer’s market on Portobello Road. They are the food of Shangri-La.
At age 35 the male metabolism changes. Between 35 and 40 Mr. Henry gained two pounds per year. At his annual check-up he asked his physician what to do. Dr. K’s immortal reply was “Quit eating!”
Clearly this is sound medical advice, but as in financial, political, and sexual matters, sound advice is difficult to follow.
Today Mr. Henry faces another problem of 35. Blue jeans are manufactured in graduated sizes of 30, 31, 32, 33, and 34-inch waist. After 34 comes 36.
The problem of 35 is that it isn’t there.
Faced with a sinister plot, Mr. Henry’s mind, unlike the darker minds of political reporters, federal prosecutors, and religious fanatics, does not immediately leap to conspiracy for a solution.
Regarding the problem of 35, however, hearsay evidence points to a world-wide conspiracy of skinny fashionistas – black-clad eaters of take-out salads with creamy dressing, spicy tuna rolls, Thai peanut noodles, and cheese-flavored corn chips, all of which are secretly laced with MSG.
Their collective goal is to prevent gracefully aging men from wearing the one worldwide signature garment of youth – blue jeans that fit.
When walking to the dog run Mr. Henry dons a ancient pair of 34’s unwashed since late 2007. Rips at knees and cuffs are not a deliberate style statement. The fabric is spontaneously shredding and simply will not withstand the rigors of a washing machine.
His replacement 34’s will not yet yield to the fundamental argument, and Mr. Henry refuses on principle to buy a pair of 36’s.
Thus diet dominates life. Like a train wreck, the expanded waistline collides with the blue jeans which in turn degrade personal hygiene and shatter self-respect. Not just the jeans lie in tatters.
The solution? Mr. Henry’s Dietary Dicta prescribe no carbohydrates at dinner. It seems he must cease playing by winter rules and face 35 days of fasting in the desert, or at least 35 days of fasting without dessert.