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November 14, 2007

Order and Sequence

Filed under: Asian Food,Japanese Food,Mr. Henry,Wine — Mr. Henry @ 2:54 pm

Though not a fussbudget, Mr. Henry likes order. He likes first things to be first and fair to be fair. He may admire the rugged wild, but he prefers his personal world to be tame.

In matters of style, he likes things to look like what they are, hence his preference for Art Deco over Art Nouveau. In language, he likes things to be called by their real names, hence his abhorrence of “the war on terror,” yet another pernicious Orwellian locution that has gained common currency through mindless repetition.Ludwig_Van_Beethoven.png

Having spent all last week trying to untangle the spindly white cords of his new Apple earbuds, Mr. Henry finds his tired mind benumbed by software tutorials and Lilliputian iPhone keypads. He yearns for order, for routine, for the comfort of homey, established habits.

He longs for a day when each morsel of food and each sip of drink follow one another like the swelling dum-dum-dum of a Beethoven crescendo.

Wine experts discuss “pairings” with food, but what about sequence throughout the day?

Mr. Henry finds that what he ate for lunch influences his choice of wine for dinner.

Since he does not drink wine for lunch, the alchemical advantage that an appropriate wine provides to the digestive process must await the dinner hour.

Like a hunting hound, the initial dinner sip races down Mr. Henry’s eager gullet tracking faint scents of lunch far, far down the tract. Thus, Mr. Henry does not want to throw an earthy red from the Languedoc onto a sushi lunch, even with six hours of distance between them.

In daily routines he strives to achieve chords of harmony spiced by notes of dissonance – the organic order of music.

In traditional societies, rigorous rules of order apply, although sometimes these remain hidden from foreign eyes. Fausta regaled Mr. Henry with a Thousand and One Nights tale from India:

At a princely home in Jaipur for lunch she was presented with a dozen dishes, a dozen sauces, and a dozen pickles. Before Fausta could begin, the lady of the house carefully schooled her in the meal’s subtle order.

Naturally enough, mild flavors were to be enjoyed before strong ones. Other pairings were more unexpected. While coriander still lingered on the palate, for example, a certain chutney was recommended. With Indian food especially, a cuisine overwhelmingly complicated both to prepare and to enjoy, a road map to proper order and sequence can be enormously helpful.

Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Cooking, a book that has been staring down from Mr. Henry’s cookbook shelf for nearly three decades, lists recipes that require two days of preparation, a trip to Queens Boulevard for ingredients, and two prep chefs. From the cook they demand perhaps too much order.classic indian cooking-thumb.jpg

In this Orwellian world, orderliness itself has become a luxury – not the “law and order” kind, mind you, in which law is bent to better impose order. No, Mr. Henry is speaking of the luxurious order of solitude at breakfast, a companion at lunch, and a family at dinner. Mr. Henry would like to place his order for more of this kind, if you please, and pronto.

And what about the little strings running the length of a banana which usually break when pulled away? Cannot scientists address this affront to order? banan02.gif


  1. If you peel your banana before it ripens, you can stitch moccasins with those strings.

    Comment by Judith in Umbria — November 15, 2007 @ 2:59 pm

  2. Oh, Mr. Henry, you have spoken to my heart this evening! I, too, think of these daily rituals-the order of things- are so valuable and lovely. My husband and I recently bought a Senseo coffee maker. It makes a very serviceable cup of coffee and is very nice if you only want a cup on the go. But I just could not give up my French press! It is the ritual of it all. The progress of my steps through the kitchen as I brew a cup of coffee is as much a part of my morning as opening my eyes.

    Comment by Eilish — November 16, 2007 @ 11:44 pm

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