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Take Out | Manolo's Food Blog - Part 2
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Roughing it

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.

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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.marktwain.jpg

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.

The Problem of 35

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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.

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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.

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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.

Mr. Henry is Beat

After painting the bathroom all day, or to be perfectly accurate, painting the bathroom trim and corners all day, Mr. Henry is not about to stand up at the stove.

Mr. Henry adores his stove, mind you, his new Dacor hot-air convection oven (the 30” all-gas EGR 30 range with the ceramic radiation broiler – pure heaven on earth), without which the newly renovated chef’s kitchen would have no center, no bottom, no focus loci. But he just cannot face the idea of thinking about, of conceptualizing, of planning a meal.

Cutting a line between Decorator White semi-gloss on the ceiling and Vanilla Milkshake eggshell on the walls made significant demands on his hand-eye coordination abilities and as for his planning capabilities, well, these are never at their best when his hands are paint-flecked and aching. Mr. Henry is beat, and worse, so is She, his loving wife whose energies are without measure.

When Mr. Henry refers to his new Dacor convection oven, by the way, a remarkable home resource, he is stretching the possessive just a smidge. The Dacor, like the other appliances and indeed like the whole apartment, belongs to Her. (The Turkoman carpet, however, is Mr. Henry’s by right of its masculine design and because he bought it for his back office back when he had a back office as well as a secretary, a front office man, a bookkeeper, and the like. Let’s not even get into it, shall we?)

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