I have known for a while that my tenure as a food critic was drawing to a close. At the zenith of my powers, editors wouldn't dare alter my work, but now they shear my articles like sharks feeding off a wounded fish. I must admit, though, that my story lines have become tiresome, and my well of mixed metaphors has run dry as a bone in a beggar's pocket on the day after Christmas. So I set upon the formidable task of finding my replacement. In my search for brilliance, literary eloquence, a discerning palate, acerbic humor and of course, dashing good looks, I discovered Henry ...
"Heavy lies the crown, Henry. Do you think you can handle the heat that comes with being a prominent food critic?"
"If you believe in yourself enough it doesn't matter how other people view you. I am confident I can handle the criticism."
"OK. How do you think you would review a poor restaurant?"
"I'd be direct. I wouldn't want to be excessively negative. You've got to stick to the real reason and show everyone why you didn't like it. You never have to lie because all you're being asked to give is your very own opinion. If it's not good, it's not good."
"OK. What did you think of Madhuban?"
"It seems like tonight's meal started bland, and the flavor increased later. The assorted appetizer platter was mostly fried, and I don't eat a lot of fried food. I liked the potato pakora the most. The spicy batter wasn't greasy, and better than I thought it would be. The peas in the vegetable pakora seemed de-moisturized and likely frozen. They didn't have the pop they should have. The paneer pakora surprised me. I wouldn't expect so much cheese in Indian food."
"How would you describe the papadam that they brought out first?"
"It was slightly salty, but not like a tortilla. It was thin and crisp, with a hint of burnt flavor that was more in the aftertaste."
"OK, I like that description. What about the atmosphere?"
"It looked pretty good. It looked like they were going for not quite fine dining, but not jump in for a quick bite either."
"Sure. And how about the main courses?"
"I liked the lamb biryani the most. It was a collaboration of a lot of different spices in there. It was pretty well-seasoned and hot. The corn tasted canned though. The shahi paneer was completely bland—a patty of nothing. The curry was good, but nothing special."
"Don't pull any punches, Henry! I think you liked the lamb more because I asked for it to be spicier: a four out of five on their hot scale. Looks like we all really enjoyed the chicken vindalu however, which is a popular staple among Indian restaurants. What did you think about the service?"
"I could agree with that, but I think our waiter was maybe just on the quiet side. Now when I write reviews Henry, I try to sprinkle in some information about myself. I find that it personalizes the review. Anything you want to share about yourself?"
"I don't like to show-off. It seems embarrassing to take advantage of the spotlight to show-off."
"So, what is your overall impression?"
"I would come back if someone wanted Indian food."
"Maybe not a ringing endorsement, but you sound satisfied. I think I liked it perhaps a bit more than you. So Henry, I also like to blend current events into my reviews. Got any pet issues you want to discuss?"
"I would definitely make recess longer. We only get 15-20 minutes. And I would not mind a later bedtime."
"OK, and is there anything embarrassing you would like to say about your parents?"
"I got a list."
—Henry Shafer-Coffey will be the next Waj Nasser, but first he has to finish the fourth grade.