Mr. Henry has a healthy appetite.
His invariable breakfast routine begins with a banana, a small piece of which he offers to his noble hound, Pepper, despite a strict household injunction against such departures from her regular diet. Since the rest of the Henry household lies asleep at this hour, however, this little transgression remains his little secret.
Sometimes mixed with raw rolled oats, raisin bran, and a touch of Grape Nuts for crunch, yogurt is a breakfast staple, as well. The intestines approve whole-heartedly. Coffee, that great Arabian contribution to world culture, is required for the well-being of Mr. Henry’s disposition. The buoyancy it imparts to Mr. Henry’s morning mood ensures that whatever horror the New York Times may report about national policy will not upset the intestinal balance achieved by banana plus yogurt.
Soon after returning from Pepper’s morning run, however, Mr. Henry begins casting conspiratorial glances towards the refrigerator and speculating about lunch.
Lunch is without question the pivot of Mr. Henry’s day, its central alimentary event, the Henry organism’s very purpose and mainstay.
An Arabic proverb declares: “Eat your breakfast, share your lunch, and give your dinner away.”
This is the soundest advice Mr. Henry has ever heard on the noisy subject of diet, and he did in fact hear it from a bona fide Arab gentleman many years ago in Tangier. In embracing this wisdom he lost the thirty pounds gained during Mrs. Henry’s pregnancy and has maintained a waistline that remains the envy of his peers. In casting downward glances Mr. Henry has a nearly unobstructed view of his feet. Indeed, so long as he doesn’t exhale, when wearing his racing Speedo at the J.C.C. he can make it from the stairs to the pool without compromising his dignity one iota.
There are, however, boundaries to his discipline. In this world there are temptations of many types — worldly pleasures of such fragrant intensity that no man, not even a man of Mr. Henry’s character and breeding, can long resist. Mr. Henry is speaking, naturally, of the cheese course.
The St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage party, an annual Henry household event, terminated with two divine Irish cheeses provided by Dr. Lorna: Cashel blue, a creamy not crumbly one, and Cahill porter cheddar, a nice farmhouse cheddar shockingly marbled with brown veins.
Bottles of cold Guinness draught brought smiles to our faces. Inside each bottle you will find a curious little ceramic whirligig which when you pop the cap expels a jet of gas into the brew. The result is as light as the old standby stout is heavy, a surprisingly gentle, refreshing, and apt accompaniment to corned beef.
Leave it to the Irish to create a cheese laced with brown ale. When thinking of cheese, one’s imagination does not leap to visions of Ireland, and, frankly, Guinness stout does not call out for cheese, either. And yet a slice of cheese washed down by draught Guinness drunk cold from the bottle provided the perfect close to the meal.
At Mr. Henry’s house the cheese sits out.
It sleeps on the countertop like a tranquil pet.
Mrs. Henry is dismissive of cheeses left out to achieve “room temperature.” Harsh words have been exchanged on the subject. For Mrs. Henry cheese is an invitation to mice. For Mr. Henry cheese is a work of refinement and high craftsmanship, a binding tie to ages past, the highest achievement of animal husbandry, and the one completely irresistible food.
At long last, low-fat diets have beaten a retreat. Granted, those Henry friends and relations who have suffered heart attacks are forbidden to participate in round-table cheese tastings, but even that may be needlessly cautionary.
For Mr. Henry cheese is appropriate after most meals. The nineteenth century habit of an obligatory cheese course needs re-invigorating.
Let a thousand cheeses bloom!